The Unspoken Power of Encouragement

Earlier I was out for my normal Sunday run. My earbuds were jammin’ the latest tunes, I was all up in my thoughts, and I was cruising along as expected. I was running down South Main street in Ann Arbor, right in front of the high school, where the terrain begins to shift to somewhat of a steep incline. In other words, I was running up a large hill.

There was a woman a little ways in front of me. As I passed her I shot her a quick *thumbs up* as is customary for me when I pass someone. (I want them to know they’re awesome for being out doing something most people won’t do.)

But once I passed her I didn’t think anything of it. I was a little less than a mile away from completing my 4.2 mile run. Then, suddenly, I saw out of my peripheral vision a pink running jacket.

It was the woman I had just passed.

She must’ve sped up to catch me. I was caught off guard, and the competitor in me felt myself pushing a little bit faster. I became aware that I was beginning to speed up, almost as if to say, “who does this woman think she is trying to pass me?!?”

Yet, the faster I ran the faster she ran.

As I observed this I had to check my ego. I wasn’t out here for a race. I began to slow down ever so slightly to allow this woman her victory, and to let her pass. Here’s the thing, she didn’t pass me.

As I began to slow down she also reduced her pace. She was matching me in tandem. This is when I realized what was going on. This woman was using me to motivate her to keep going. She was presumably cold, tired, and quite frankly, running up this hill sucked.

Yet, without any words exchanged, here we were. Two strangers; me motivating her to keep going, and her the same to me.

For a nearly a quarter-mile this continued until I had to break rank to travel in a different direction. As I split away I pulled out an earbud and thanked this woman for her motivation. She returned the gratitude. I kept that higher pace throughout the remainder of my run.

When I returned home, huffing and puffing, I noticed I almost set a new personal record (PR). thirty-four minutes and fifteen seconds over 4.2 miles—and I did it more than seventeen hours fasted. It was all thanks to the random woman who gave me a little extra push that morning. She helped me without any words and hardly any acknowledgement of what was happening.

And so this is my message to you:

Go out and help someone be a little better this week. Do so without explicitly telling them, without the hopes of any praise or acknowledgement, but simply for the fact that it feels good to help others succeed.

–   Perhaps you prepare and pack an extra healthy lunch one day, and offer it to a coworker who has mentioned trying to make better food choices lately.

–  Maybe it’s politely interrupting someone during their workout at the gym, a complete stranger, just to tell them they looked impressive during their last set.

–  Or maybe it’s something as simple as silently joining someone on a task to let the know they aren’t alone in the struggle.

Words are powerful, but know that you can have the power to help someone without any words at all.

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