A Dose of Old-Fashioned Encouragement

By Cynthia Ray

 Encouragement means to hearten, to instill courage. It is when someone sees the potential and promise in us that we are only dimly aware of, if at all and makes it known to us. It is surprising, inspiring and a gift. Encouragement comes from the French word, Coeur meaning heart.

On the other hand, the word motivation is derived from the Latin “motivus”, a moving cause-activating properties. Motivation is about engaging the mind and the will to get something done.  Motivation is about a kick in the butt, encouragement is about opening someone’s eyes to their own potential.  Motivation might get you to do something, but encouragement can change your life.  I don’t know about you, but something about motivational quotes and posters makes me want to run screaming for the nearest door.

It is interesting to note that the use of the word encouragement has declined since the 1800’s, while the use of the word motivation has skyrocketed. A word that barely existed before 1900’s came into vogue as part of the study of psychology, and interest in what motivated the worker. Today we have careers dedicated to motivating others to “be the best they can be”.

I started thinking about the power of a few simple words of encouragement after I participated in a recent Facebook challenge. The challenge invited me to post my own nature photographs every day for seven days. The reception of and response to my photos surprised and encouraged me to consider things in a new way, to understand my creative “stamp”. This inspiring and contemplative experience showed me how others perceive something about me through the pictures I shared, that I had not considered or seen myself and gave me a push to expand beyond the preconceived borders I’d put on myself.


When I first started writing, the encouragement of seasoned authors and mentors was the spark that set me on a path that enriched and changed my life. That’s the thing about encouragement. It is life changing. We can do that for each other.

All we have to do is pay attention, and reach out. We may never know how our words and actions impact someone, but recently I ran into a young woman that I used to supervise in a doctors office. She’d had lots of potential and I worked with her to develop it. She told me how my belief in her and encouragement had led her to pursue a career as a physician’s assistant, which she had not had the confidence to do before that.

Young people, new and emerging artists, writers, visionaries need us to see the potential that lays dormant, and to reach out and affirm in them what they might know but be afraid to do or be so they can go on to change the world.  Set off some sparks!








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