In my leadership journey, one of the key things I’ve had to figure out is how to truly believe in people’s dreams and why that is so important. The reality is that none of us achieves anything alone – there are always others playing a critical part in inspiring us to succeed.
Authors C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien maintained a close friendship throughout their careers, sharing their love of mythical stories and a desire to create those stories for the public. It was Tolkien who led Lewis to Christ, and it was Lewis who encouraged Tolkien to keep writing fiction. It is said the literary world would have neither The Chronicles of Narnia nor The Lord of the Rings if not for the friendship between these two men.
To further illustrate the power of encouragement, John Maxwell writes about an experiment done in the San Francisco school system. A principal in the district called in three teachers and told them that, because of their expertise, they were considered the finest teachers in the system. He also told them they would be given 90 high-IQ students who would be allowed to learn at their own pace to see how far they could advance. At the end of the year, these students achieved 20 to 30 per cent more than other students in the entire San Francisco Bay area. The principal called the three teachers in and told them he had a confession to make. He told them they didn’t have 90 of the most intellectually gifted students. In fact, academically, they were run-of-the-mill, average students picked at random. The teachers naturally concluded their exceptional teaching skills must have been responsible for the students’ great progress. But the principal had another confession to divulge: these teachers were the first three names drawn out of a hat. Why, then, did these students and teachers perform at such an exceptional level for the entire year? They were encouraged to believe that they could.
So what does encouragement look like?
The first would be a posture of belief. Belief is more than “tipping your hat” to someone and acknowledging they have a dream… it’s actual faith, belief that there is a valuable contribution from everyone. Most people don’t lack the ability to dream, but lack the courage to step out and do something, or are immobilised by fear of failing. This is where encouragement comes in; when someone is believed in, this becomes a launchpad for them to
achieve what they could not do on their own.
The second would be support. People need more than belief and faith – they need agreement and action. It’s more than words, it’s placing your hand on their back, knowing that you are for them and committed to their journey.
You see this in a marriage where two people supporting each other’s dreams unconditionally have multiplied effectiveness. Deuteronomy 32:32 speaks of one having a limited impact but the impact of two being multiplied. This is also mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 18:19 where He says that where two agree nothing will be impossible for them.
Also in parenting, we have such an opportunity with our children. I love what Marcus Buckingham says “The gift you give your children when you choose to focus on what they have, rather than on what they don’t, is immeasurable. Seeking ways to allow them to express the best of themselves, and supporting them no matter how obscure their dreams may be, will undoubtedly give your children a solid platform on which to build a strong, fulfilling life.”
When we encourage others in their dreams we reflect the heart of God and we create a world of big-spirited, big-hearted people who in turn encourage others.
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