The Encouragement Approach Rather Than The Ego Approach

Different people learn to follow the encouragement approach at different stages of their lives.  They then aim to use their strengths to encourage and enable people to achieve success.  

They may take this approach when working as an educator, therapist, performing artist or in another professional role. Some people find this to be liberating. One person expressed this in the following way.

“I used to get nervous before making a presentation or going on television because I was scared of being judged.

But then I was told that it was about encouraging other people. It was about them, it was not about me.”

Some people get stuck because they follow the ego approach. They have an internal script that may say some the following things.

“How can I promote myself? How do I compare to others? How can I keep being seen as a success? How can I always Number One?”

The ego approach can be exhausting. A person may continually strive to be the best or may need constant praise. Any failure or sleight on their character causes problems.

They may feel that they will never be good enough. Alternatively, they may react by blaming others or saying the world is wrong.

Good encouragers often embrace what sounds like a paradox. They want to give their best to people but do not want to become victims. They sometimes takes the following route.

They start by clarifying their strengths and how they can use these to help people to achieve success.

They clarify the specific kinds of people with whom they work best and the challenges such people face on the way to achieving success.

They clarify how they can put themselves in the background and use their strengths to enable these people to achieve success.

Great workers in other fields sometimes focus on encouragement rather than their ego. The following idea may sound odd, but I have seen it embodied by many fine workers.

They want to encourage other things – be these organisms, machines or processes – to perform at their best. They get satisfaction from helping these things to work superbly rather than worrying about their own self-image.

Some people go into a state of flow when serving something greater than themselves. Singers aim to serve the song. Actors aim to absorb themselves in the role. Scientists throw themselves into solving the problem and finding a solution.

What is your pattern for following the encouragement approach rather than the ego approach? Looking back, can you think of a time when followed elements of this approach?

What did you do then to use your strengths to encourage a person or a group of people? How did you translate this into action? What happened as a result of taking these steps?

Many people take this approach as they get older. Some give in an encouraging way, some in an educational way, some in an economic way.

Erik Erickson, the psychologist, said that people often reach what he called the Generative Age. He described this as:

A concern for establishing and guiding the next generation.

Different people express this in different ways. The most common way is parenthood. But it can also be expressed through passing on knowledge or leaving a positive legacy.

People often want to leave a legacy. They often want to encourage their loved ones and help other people to be happy. They also want to pass on the fruits of their labours and provide wisdom that helps future generations.

Erickson said that for much of our lives we define ourselves in relation to other people. These include our parents, siblings, friends, teachers, peers and authority figures. The Generative Age brings a new awareness and we may then define ourselves in relation to humanity.

He believed that individuals face certain choices or conflicts at different stages of their lives. During adulthood, for example, they may experience the following feelings.

People can move towards the generative stage during their middle life. They are then more likely to develop a feeling integrity – such as feeling they have lived a fulfilling life – rather than despair. He wrote:

Adults need to create or nurture things that will outlast them, often by having children or creating a positive change that benefits other people.

Success leads to feelings of usefulness and accomplishment, while failure results in shallow involvement in the world.

Older adults need to look back on life and feel a sense of fulfilment. Success at this stage leads to feelings of wisdom, while failure results in regret, bitterness, and despair.

Human beings are often at their best when they choose to be generous. As the Buddha said:

“A generous heart, kind speech and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.”

People can show such qualities at any age, but many display these more as they get older. Many do this as individuals, whilst some join together to encourage future generations. Here is one such group of people.

The Elders

The Elders is an independent group of global leaders. Founded by Nelson Mandela, they work who work together for peace and human rights. Here is an excerpt from the group’s website.

Elders no longer hold public office; they are independent of any national government or other vested interest. They should have earned international trust, demonstrated integrity and built a reputation for inclusive, progressive leadership.

The Elders share a common commitment to peace and universal human rights, but they also bring with them a wealth of diverse expertise and experience.

The peace makers with decades of experience mediating and resolving conflicts around the world. The peace builders who have helped post-conflict societies to heal wounds and rebuild.

The social revolutionaries who transformed their own countries – whether by reducing poverty, improving the status of women, or championing nonviolent struggle. The pioneering women who have governed their countries, led international institutions and spearheaded movements to empower women.

An Elder is also a changemaker – someone who can lead by example, creating positive social change and inspiring others to do the same. The Elders represent an independent voice, not bound by the interests of any nation, government or institution.

They are committed to promoting the shared interests of humanity, and the universal human rights we all share. They believe that in any conflict, it is important to listen to everyone – no matter how unpalatable or unpopular this may be. 

They aim to act boldly, speaking difficult truths and tackling taboos. They don’t claim to have all the answers, and stress that every individual can make a difference and create positive change in their society.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Can you think of a situation where you may want to follow elements of the encouragement approach rather than the ego approach?  How can you follow this in your own way?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to complete the following sentences.

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