People need encouragement. We are beings who thrive on positive reinforcement, even if we are too prideful to admit it. Notice how we come alive when we are supported, seen, and appreciated? When reminded of our value, we perform better at work. We’re more self-confident. We have more energy. This is a topic I’m passionate about, as people would change for the better if we committed to believing in one another.
Reflecting on this topic, I realized this practice gets harder as we age. But why? Is it fear that someone else’s success threatens our own? Are we “too busy”? Is it due to a lack of care? It might be a mix of all the above, but I am going to say something that might be a little hard to hear. We get increasingly self-absorbed as we age.
Now, some of this is completely natural. As a working professional, spouse and/or parent, you don’t have the same capacity in your schedule as you once did. That’s part of growing up! That, my friends, is responsibility.
But in going back to the basics, I encourage you to go watch a little league game (or rather, think back to a former one). Chances are, you’re going to find a little kid on the sidelines cheering for everyone. No matter who scores, there they are, jumping and clapping with vigor. It’s unclear if they understand the point of the game, but no one dares to spoil their fun.
Somewhere between that stage of life and the present day, we lost a little momentum in showing up for our people. From a recent binge of Netflix’s ‘Cheer’, Coach Monica took me back to my former glory days of cheerleading. I realized several formative lessons on supporting others took place on a blue cheer mat. In between the moments spent in an astronomical amount of bobby pins and an absurd amount of glitter, I was coached to cheer people on (not just athletes!).
This is as much of a reminder to me as it is a lesson to you. While I don’t have encouragement mastered, I’ve been lucky to have coached by some amazing humans. So get in your ‘ready’ positions, team.
Here are a few things you can do to be the cheerleader of your people:
Show Up Big
Cheerleaders are known for their spirit. They’re participating in spirit week, fully decked out in costumes and face paint. They’re attending school events and involved in their community. Chances are, if you’re a cheerleader, these are the kind of things you live for.
The days of high school are long behind most of us, so how does this translate into your adult life? Well, it’s that dinner to honor your friend’s promotion. The local food pantry your people are heading up. Your (by blood or by choice) niece or nephew’s robotics competition. Can you imagine if we chose to show up with excitement for the things we dread or see as a chore? Pump yourself up for the things your friends are excited about and watch them light up. I promise you, they’ll come alive.
You don’t even need a reason or an event, you just need a Tuesday. Especially in a global pandemic, you have to create your own moments to celebrate. Commit to it.
In cheerleading, there are two different types of routine run-throughs. First, there is what we call “marking”. During marking, the squad walks through the routine to ensure everyone knows their placement and timing. They go through the motions, but it’s performed at lower energy. It’s a conservative effort that withholds any stunts or tumbling. Coaches ask squads to mark a routine to clean-up the performance and preserve everyone’s energy.
Then, there’s what we call “full-out”. It’s exactly as it sounds. This is when squads practice the routine just as hard as they would perform in an actual competition. Your most complex stunts and most difficult tumbling sequences are thrown. This is where your shirt is drenched in sweat and your voice is hoarse from cheering on your teammate’s new skill.
When it comes to life, I am afraid too many of us “mark” our way through the motions. I get it: sometimes you need to preserve your energy. That’s an important topic for another day. But when it comes to our people, are we ever going full out? If the answer is no, it’s worth asking ourselves why.
For me, fear comes to mind. Anytime I am tempted to half show-up or “mark” my way through life, it’s because I’ve allowed fear to talk me out of it. I’d love to show up with a ridiculous amount of balloons to a friend’s birthday party. I only hesitate when I wonder if other people think I am weird. Will they think I am ‘too much’?
But going full out means being the one who buys the local Party City out of helium birthday balloons. It’s volunteering to dress up as your nibling’s favorite Disney character at their birthday party. It’s committing to supporting someone at full speed.
When it comes to this, cheerleaders aren’t consumed with the “what ifs”. They’re not concerned with looking silly or dumb. They’re just doing it full-out. True cheerleaders don’t care if they show up bigger than others. It isn’t about that – it’s about the people they support.
Lead by Example
This one is pretty straightforward. Cheerleaders don’t wait around for others to get excited. They’re the ones in front of the crowd. They’re first to clap for other’s achievements, and first to show support when their people are discouraged. They’re leading in a focused manner, zeroed in on the key players of the game.
Sometimes, the best thing you can do for your people is to help them have fun. You know those days where you lay your head down on your pillow and wouldn’t change a single thing? Your lungs have been cleared by some fresh air and laughter. Your chest feels light. Your body is noticeably relaxed. Those are the days we are chasing after.
Brene Brown talks about the importance of cultivating play. She describes “play” as purposeless and voluntary. It allows us to have freedom from the constraints of time and consciousness of self. As a champion for your people, step in and help them let loose. Cheerleaders encourage playful fun, which is a unique gift to offer your loved ones.
Okay, hang with me through this one. You’re going to want to roll your eyes – and I hear you on that.
The Spirit Stick is one of the most novel ideas about cheerleading. Yes, I’ve seen “Bring It On!” and understand the ridiculousness of it all. Hollywood loves to play up the juvenile aspect of the award (…rightfully so) and pit girls against one another in the process.
To be transparent, back in my cheerleading days, I never understood the sentiment. Yea, it kinda was a gimmicky sham. The whole rule of “you cannot drop the Spirit Stick” is enough to make me roll my eyes. Remember, this is coming from someone who has spent years of their life in uniform.
For those who do not know, the Spirit Stick is awarded at cheer camp to the squads who demonstrate spirit (shocking, I know). There’s a ceremony every night to award the recipients (no, I am not kidding). The whole ordeal is nothing short of a production.
It’s important to note there is not a limit to how many squads can receive the award. In theory, it’s something everyone should get. Spirit Sticks are given to teams who show support for other squads, exercise teamwork and have a positive attitude.
Frankly, I just wanted our squad to be good. I wanted to be the best. The Spirit Stick had nothing to do with talent or success, so I thought it was all a bit silly. In my first year as captain, on the opening night of cheer camp, we did not get the Spirit Stick. Our stunts were falling and no one was in sync with one another. We were by far the most talented squad, but we looked (and acted) like a dumpster fire. Once closing remarks were made by the camp staff and we were dismissed for the night, I remember our coaches sitting us in a hallway and letting us have it. Initially, I assumed we were going to get in trouble for sloppy and poor performance. But to my surprise, they didn’t seem phased by that aspect of the evening. It was our attitudes that caused embarrassment and disappointment. One coach asked, “How hard is it to clap for others?”. That stuck. Because guess what? It takes zero talent to be supportive and kind.
I’ve been on talented squads on bad days. I’ve been on talented squads on amazing days. I’ve suffered through being on a bad squad on a bad day. You name the combination, I’ve been there. But here is what was universally true in each scenario: when celebrating other’s victories, genuine supporters aren’t concerned with their own performance.
The Spirit Stick embodies the ability to root for others, regardless of what is going on with you. We all know those people who drag others down when their life is less than stellar. They’re the people you cannot tell you got a promotion or that you’re in a new relationship. And friends, you don’t want to be THAT person. Instead, you want to be winning the Spirit Stick daily, no matter what is happening on your own mat. Corny? You betcha. True? Without a doubt.
Cheerleaders must learn to be self-forgetful. My high school cheer coaches taught me a lot about the power of being happy for others’ victories. In taking the competition element out of cheer, you’re solely there to support others on the sideline of a sport. You’re not equating every experience back to your own performance, as your purpose is to be there for everyone else.
Friends are getting married before you? Did your co-worker get promoted first? Here is the hard truth: those things are not about you. It’s not your moment. This is your time to clap on the sidelines, proud of their strut in the spotlight.
As ridiculous as this might sound, Joey from Friends is the ultimate example of self-forgetfulness. His career is rocky. He struggles in the love department. He has issues with his family. But even so, Joey gets excited for everyone in the group. He removes himself from the equation when celebrating others. Why? Because he realizes his friend’s successes were never about him anyway.
There is no off-season. Cheerleading is a year-round commitment. It’s sometimes two-a-days; it’s sometimes every night. To be a good cheerleader, you cannot show up when it is convenient. You need to be reliable, consistent, and constant.
Assist Their People Through Mental Blocks
In cheerleading, few things are dreaded more than a mental block. This happens when a cheerleader has all the mechanics to master a skill, but fear prevents them from executing the skill. Think back-flips: you have to thrust yourself backward without visibility to the ground. It takes a notable level of trust in yourself and a whole lotta guts.
To get through a mental block, coaches and teammates will “spot” the cheerleader until confidence is built to throw the skill without assistance. Sometimes, it means physically helping them through the skill. But most of the time, it is simply standing there that provides enough comfort for the cheerleader to do it. After several repetitions, the spotter can be removed for the individual to perform the skill on their own.
See where I am going? We all have people in our lives who sell themselves short and have gotten paralyzed by fear. Sometimes, you just need to “stand there” for your people. They’ll get it eventually, but being there as they develop their confidence is so important. Don’t walk away because they’re scared. Lean in and tell them they can do it. Help them trust themselves by showing trust in them. Encouragement isn’t always in the form of clapping for others. Sometimes, it’s giving them courage and bravery.
Help Others Through High-Pressure Situations
In cheerleading competitions, you get 2-3 minutes to nail it. Cheerleaders spend months to perfect a routine, only to get a few moments to perform it. The pressure is high. Most of the time, competition scores are within a few points of one another. Because of that, the tiniest of details are important to execute flawlessly. The room for error is small.
Cheerleaders recognize these moments of pressure in other’s lives. And furthermore, they know the importance of showing support in these times for their people.
Make Others Feel Good About Themselves
This is my all-time favorite and my personal mission statement. Cheerleaders make people feel good about themselves. Write this on your mirror or repeat this in your meditation. For me, it’s the lock screen on my phone.
So what does this mean in practice? Here are a few tangible, realistic ways to become the ultimate cheerleader of your group:
Did your co-worker share an exciting project or announcement in Slack? You guys, it takes .02 seconds to throw down an emoji reaction and send out a word of encouragement. We get that this might not always be instantaneous (we’d never get anything done if it was). But, it’s worth it to go through the mentions of the day and catch up on news. Especially while you’re working remotely, it’s important to cheer on your co-workers with little touchpoints.
Use Voice Memos.
There’s so much comfort in hearing someone’s voice! Seriously, give it a try.
Send a Greetabl gift/schedule a delivery.
With scheduled deliveries, it’s easier than ever to show support for your people. Does your friend have an interview for their dream job in a few weeks? You can schedule a Greetabl gift to be delivered before or after they nail it. There are so many use cases to send a gift of encouragement
Keep a notes page.
It sounds a little odd, but life has a LOT of details to remember. Did your friend mention they love potato chips dipped in ice cream? That daisies are their favorite flower? When they need encouragement or praise for their latest accomplishment, you’ll be ready to jump in with the perfect thing!
Utilize your calendar.
Did your friend mention a major upcoming work presentation? Put it in your calendar. Did your mom give you the date of a doctor’s appointment she’s a little nervous about? Put it in your calendar. DO something with the information your people share with you – don’t simply be a bystander.
Set recurring tasks.
At Greetabl, we use Asana to manage our workflow. Every morning, I have a task to check Facebook for birthdays. (Greetabl also has a reminders feature – be sure to try it out!).
This task forces me to take 2 minutes before I start my workday and send a quick HBD to the people in my life. If they’re super close to me, I have that in my calendar as noted above. If they’re a more distant friend, I’ll send them a quick note or text. When is anyone ever sad to be wished happy birthday?
If someone is on your mind, reach out.
This is something that has never proven to be wrong. Call it gut instinct, call it intuition, call it whatever – if someone pops in your mind, send a text. Drop a voice memo. Do something in action. Every time, I am floored by the response I get and the validation of how much they needed the outreach. Pay attention to where your mind goes.
Be generous with shout-outs.
In my personal experience, I’ve never regretted giving someone a moment of praise or credit. If you’re presenting on something at work and someone else contributed, tell the team! Again, this takes minimal effort but the pay-off is immense. Don’t worry that people will think less of you for elevating someone else. I promise the spotlight will find it’s way back to you (and you’ll learn to be okay if it doesn’t! I’ve learned life gets better when you realize it’s not all about you.)
Make it a habit.
You might be thinking – this sounds nice, but what’s in it for me? I don’t have time for this. And here is a simple truth: if you want to be cheered on yourself, you start by cheering on someone else. The more you exercise this muscle, the more natural it will become. And the more natural it becomes, the more encouraging others becomes part of your DNA. When THAT happens, you’ll find yourself needing less affirmation. You’ll be actively seeking genuine ways to support others. I promise you, it’s so freeing.
You might be starting from ground zero, as someone who is not one to vocalize praise. You might be a natural encourager already, ready to take on some new ideas to inspire your people.
Wherever you find yourself, remember to take initiative with your relationships. Be the encourager you want to have. I’ll be here with my (retired, rusty) pom-poms, cheering you on as you cheer on others.
Megan Golliver is the Marketing Specialist at Greetabl.