RECOGNIZING AND COPING WITH DISCOURAGEMENT
by Paul White

You work hard, try your best, and still, things don’t work out as you hoped. You plan, prepare, think ahead — and yet, something unforeseen comes out of nowhere and creates another obstacle you have to overcome. Life, both at work and outside of work, is difficult. This is especially true now with shelter in place rules, kids at home, and new work arrangements.

What is discouragement, really? 

Discouragement literally means, “without courage.” We lose that fighting edge to “go get ’em” and attack the challenges of the day. We lose heart. We are worn out. We wonder if “it” (our goals/our vision) is worth all of the time and effort we are putting into trying to make things happen.

Anyone who has goals they are trying to reach becomes discouraged at some point. The obstacles to overcome loom large and seem to be multiplying instead going away or diminish as we deal with them. We don’t seem to be making progress and wonder if all that we are doing makes any difference at all.

When You Need to Be Encouraged

Sometimes, we need encouragement. While it may feel weird to some, the best way to get some encouragement is to let people know that you are discouraged. Here are some factors to consider when you are seeking encouragement in relation to work.

If you are fairly close to a colleague, I think it is reasonable to say something like:

“Just wanted to let you know, I’m pretty discouraged.  I don’t want to be a whiner, and it is not your responsibility to make me feel better, but if you have any input or suggestions, I’m open.”

This at least opens the door for the other person to give you some feedback (hopefully, positive and supportive) OR for them to follow-up and ask you more about the situation – they may be totally surprised at your comment.

At the same time, trying to start communicating appreciation to others you work with may be a good step, as well – to start modeling the type of communication you’d like from others.  No guarantees but it may “prime the pump” for others to start being more supportive.

If you are new to the group, not especially close to anyone, or if there has been tension with your supervisor, I would not recommend the above.

Rather, I think it may be better to look for support and encouragement from friends and family – letting them know that you are pretty discouraged at work, and any support / encouragement they can give you would be appreciated.

This can be especially difficult knowing that so many others are also struggling and feeling discouraged. But reach out anyway. Most people want to support their colleagues, friends and family. And you may end up being able to encourage them too.

Finally, we all need to learn how to encourage ourselves, as well. Looking for external validation all of the time isn’t healthy. We actually need both sources – encouragement from others and learning ways to boost and motivate ourselves. A good way is to take a quick inventory of all of the things you have accomplished, the abilities you have, and the skills you have developed. Pretty quickly you will realize you have a lot of strengths.

Current circumstances are difficult for most of us and, if we are not careful, can lead to a “what’s the use?” attitude. The reality is – a lot of life (and opportunities!) lie before us in the coming weeks, months and years. Take stock of the strengths you have and see how you can use them to help meet the needs of those around you (even if it isn’t a “paid gig”). Often, serving others lifts our own spirits and leads us to new paths of opportunities we hadn’t seen before.

 

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