Dealing with Discouragement

It is perhaps an obvious fact, but leadership is not easy and can sometimes be lonely as well. Some of you will remember the old western song “Home on the Range” that began with “Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam.” The lyrics conclude with the line, “Where seldom is heard a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day.”

Well, the hard fact is that place never did exist, even if we hoped for it. Discouragement is common to all of us. In this blog, I would like to share some thoughts about the causes of discouragement and how to confront them.

1. Criticism – The job description of leaders, who are indeed leading, includes the reality of criticism. There will always be opposition and people who are faultfinders.

It is my contention that leaders must pay attention to criticism and pay attention to the content, but also the source and motive. In many circumstances, however, criticism must simply be ignored. 

2. Loss of Strength or Energy – It has been my experience that discouragement usually sets in about halfway through a project or time period. This is when the temptation to quit or withdraw first appears. The newness has worn off, the parade is over, the cheerleaders have left, and there are still 20 laps to go. You might even hear the words, “We’re never going to finish this.”

Did you ever have the experience of remodeling or significantly redecorating your house? The planning was exciting, and so was picking out the paint and perhaps the wallpaper. Seeing the first room completed was also satisfying. But halfway through, you begin to wonder if you should have even started the project.

Marriage can provide a similar experience. Halfway through we wonder if we married the right person. “Maybe he or she wasn’t right for me.”

3. Loss of Confidence – Lack of confidence is another cause of discouragement—those times when you doubt your ability or question yourself with negative thoughts.

Unfortunately, confidence loss is contagious. There will be many times when you encounter “It will never work,” “It can’t be done,” or “You’ll never get it approved.” If you listen to the voices—whether your own or others—that are saying “What’s the use?” you will have become discouraged by context. Generally speaking, the more important the idea, the greater the potential for change, the greater the resistance.

4. Loss of Vision – There are times in the midst of our work when we lose sight of the overarching purpose—what we are called to do, the mission that has responded to the big “why?” and the “Why are we here together?” It’s easy to get caught up in the details, the bureaucracy, the problems and the negatives. When we lose our vision, we let the present prevent the possibility of a better future and the leadership journey becomes less exciting.

What to Do?

As shared previously, leadership can be a lonely process. It is, therefore, critical that we surround ourselves with encouragers. Who we hang out with makes a huge difference. In many situations, we realize that we have gotten discouraged because we have become separated from those we are leading. We must learn to move from self-pity to unity.

It is ironic that we can help ourselves by serving others—whether it involves overcoming discouragement or other life problems. The best leaders are indeed servants.

The main thing is to recognize that discouragement is common to all of us. It’s a by-product of being human. What matters is to recognize discouragement, acknowledge it when it is occurring and have a plan for working through it. One of the things that I do is to remind myself of the things I can control and those I can’t, and focus on the controllable.

Lastly, make sure you are getting enough sleep and don’t forget to celebrate the positive. It’s not always easy, but take the time to count your blessings.

Note: For those of you who may be struggling with discouragement, I would urge you to read this months’ book recommendation, Your Wellbeing Blueprint: Feeling Good and Doing Well at Work. The book provides many insights and actions steps to experience greater wellbeing.




Proverbs 18:21 (TPT)

Your words are so powerful that they will kill
or give life, and the talkative person will
reap the consequences.


Can't Not Do

Your Wellbeing Blueprint: Feeling Good and Doing Well at Work

Michelle McQuaid and Dr. Peggy Kern (Michelle McQuaid, 2017)

There are many authors and books being published today by a wide range of positive psychologists. Your Wellbeing Blueprint: Feeling Good and Doing Well at Work distinguishes itself in several different ways. It discusses the dynamics of working in the context of the workplace. It offers an excellent explanation of the elements of working and most importantly, provides the reader with an abundant number of tools, exercises and activities to improve the workplace.

As you know, wellbeing is talked about a lot these days, so it is important to understand the authors’ meaning. It is the “…ability to feel good and function effectively. It allows you to ‘be well’–to feel good physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, intellectually and socially—and to ‘do good’–to achieve what you would like to each day, be it at work or at home.”

The book essentially unfolds the six pillars of Wellbeing with respect to sharing a deeper meaning of the construct, and offering practical approaches that can be used to strengthen one’s effort in that area through actions and exercises.

Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, has identified five pillars of Wellbeing:

  • Positive emotions: experiencing positive feelings, such as joy, calmness and happiness.
  • Engagement: being interested in and involved in life.
  • Relationships: feeling loved, valued and connected with other people.
  • Meaning: having a sense of direction, feeling that our lives are valuable and worthwhile, connected to something bigger than ourselves.
  • Accomplishment: the belief and ability to do things that matter most to us, achieving goals, and having a sense of mastery.

To this list McQuaid and Kern have added:

  • Health: being physically healthy and active

These six pillars are now commonly referred to as PERMAH in the positive psychology literature.

The book offers an extra plus, an invitation to measure your wellbeing with respect to your work or employment experience at PERMAHSurvey.com. Your survey results will enable you to craft a game plan for increasing your ability to thrive and flourish in your work setting. As the authors suggest, taking the survey is like stepping on your bathroom scale. You can see where you are (weight) and decide where you might want to be. There is no charge to take the survey, and you can complete it in less than 20 minutes.

If you are curious about curiosity this book is for you.

Purchase this and other recommended books at amazon, your local bookstore or through CherryHillHighTide.com bookstore.

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