If we hope to achieve our goals and realize our dreams — despite obstacles, setbacks, disappointments, and other challenges in life — we must stay encouraged. Doing so takes effort and strategy.
We previously discussed the importance of maintaining a can-do, giant-slayer, history-maker mindset, by keeping a divine perspective and choosing to focus on the solution to the challenges we face (and not the problems): the God of the impossible (Luke 1:37) “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” (Ephesians 3:20 NIV) Here are some additional strategies for staying encouraged.
1. Develop an Attitude of Gratitude.
If you’re asking yourself, “What do I have to be thankful for?” then you really need to implement this. No matter what we’re facing, no matter what’s wrong in our lives, we can at least thank God for life itself. In fact, each new morning is a gift from God. So is the sun on a warm day. And for what it’s worth, so is the rain on a chilly day! Unfortunately, people seem to find it easier to keep track of the bad stuff: what we can’t be, what we can’t do, what we don’t have. In fact, some people lie awake at night taking inventory of every deficiency, failure, slight, and unfulfilled need.
In the 1954 musical White Christmas, Bing Crosby offers some sound advice when he croons a wonderful Irving Berlin song:
When I’m worried and I can’t sleep,
I count my blessings instead of sheep;
And I fall asleep … Counting my blessings.
When my bankroll is getting small,
I think of when I had none at all;
And I fall asleep … Counting my blessings.
- Count your blessings. Like most of the strategies we’ve discussed, counting one’s blessings — and not one’s “curses” — is a matter of choice … fueled by one’s perspective in life. But it’s a choice God wants each of us to make. The Apostle Paul writes, “…In every situation [no matter what the circumstances] be thankful and continually give thanks to God; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 AMP) Please note the first word of Paul’s advice: IN. The apostle is not asking us to thank God FOR adverse circumstances; however, he is, in essence, asking us to remember God’s faithfulness when we find ourselves in the midst of such circumstances.
- Be thankful for the “little things” in life. Truly appreciating, and being thankful for, the simplest pleasures of life is a practical way to develop a grateful heart. The little things (which, in truth, are actually pretty tremendous) can include: a gorgeous sunset on a quiet beach … and the eyes to see it; a robin chirping cheerfully in the backyard … and the ears to hear it; finding a good parking spot, right in front of the store … and strong legs to hoof it, when we don’t!; the cordial conversation and comforting companionship of family and good friends; not to mention food on the table, clothes on our backs, and a roof over our heads.
King David writes, “Praise the Lord, my soul, and never forget all the good He has done: He is the One who forgives all your sins, the One who heals all your diseases, the One who rescues your life from the pit, the One who crowns you with mercy and compassion….” (Psalm 103:2-4 GW) David was a giant-slayer and history-maker, a man after God’s own heart. (Acts 13:22) The Psalmist was also a creator and a dreamer, who knew adversity. But he stayed encouraged because he remained grateful for all his Lord had done — and would do in the days and years to come.
David’s advice to us for staying encouraged: Don’t forget all the wondrous things wrought by the hand of God. Besides, no one — including God — wants to be taken for granted. We should appreciate and always remember to thank Him, not just when He meets a need or blesses us with the answer to a prayer, but also for the privilege of knowing the Creator of the Universe and being able to serve Him.
And speaking of developing a grateful heart, being appreciative and thankful should extend into our earthly relationships, as well — especially in marriage. We should be mindful of the “little things” our friends and family do, which make life more enjoyable. Did mom make breakfast for you — the way she has for years? Did you thank her and tell her how much you appreciate her? Did dad fix your bike or give you money to buy candy? Did you tell him he’s the greatest?
On the flip side: Hello, men. Nothing encourages a hard working gal like a thoughtful card or an inexpensive “fun bunch” of flowers — for no special reason! Hello, ladies! Lovingly preparing a meal featuring his favorites can help lift his spirits. Any kind of “just because” deed or blessing goes a long way toward helping others stay encouraged. And we are called to “encourage one another daily.” (Hebrew 3:13 NIV)
Still feeling a bit overwhelmed? Here’s an additional strategy that goes hand-in-hand with counting your blessings and being grateful:
2. REFOCUS. Whenever you find yourself getting down and mopey, especially regarding your dreams and creative pursuits, it’s time to shift gears and refocus.
- Consider how far you’ve come, not how far you’ve still to go; what you’ve accomplished, not what you’ve yet to achieve. Above all, start focusing on what you have, not what you want. Again, count your blessings: if you enjoy good health, have running hot water, a roof that doesn’t leak, and something good to eat, then you are indeed successful and blessed.
- Get outdoors and enjoy God’s creation. Go for a walk in the park or on the beach. Find a nature trail. Take in a sunset (or a sunrise)! Norman Vincent Peale once stated, “A walk a day keeps the gloomies away!”
- Change your routine! When you find yourself constantly in “fight mode” — then you’re ready for some much needed R&R. Take a break from whatever it is that you’re constantly doing or pursuing. Get out and do something fun. Give your goals a rest and go shopping. Have an ice cream cone — with sprinkles! Curl up with a good book or magazine … and even take a nap!
When it comes to the pursuit of dreams and aspirations, don’t overdo it. Stop once in awhile to smell the roses! (We mean this both literally and figuratively!) Continue to pursue your dreams but make frequent stops to take in all the wonderful sights, sounds, and people you encounter along the journey! Don’t let life pass you by as one big blur! Enjoy the little things that God has created, the loving things that people do, and be grateful.
Count your blessings. And please don’t forget to thank God for all He’s done and yet to do. Develop a genuine attitude of gratitude. To quote Houston Pastor Joel Osteen, one of the greatest encouragers of our time, “The seeds of discouragement cannot take root in the soil of a grateful heart.”
“I said to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord. All the good things I have come from You.’” (Psalm 16:2 NLV)