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All About You: Dealing with discouragement

All About You by Richard Hawk

EDITOR’S NOTE: Motivating employees to work safely is part of the safety professional’s job. But who motivates the motivator? In this monthly column, veteran safety pro and professional speaker Richard Hawk offers his entertaining brand of wisdom to inspire safety pros to perform at their best.

How often do you feel discouraged? Don’t think of an exact number – that’s impossible to figure out. But let’s say while you’re at work: How often do you feel you’re not making a big enough difference for it to matter; that all you deal with is safety problems (or some similar thought)? Never, rarely, sometimes, most of the time or always? If it’s one of the last three beliefs, this article is just for you!

First off, it’s helpful to realize that everything you do matters. Even if you only improve one person’s mood or feelings, you’ve changed the future. (The same holds true if you make someone feel worse.) From the moment you wake up and interact with anybody (including yourself) until you go to bed and start your sleep adventure, you are making a difference. If you keep this in mind, it will help reduce your discouraged feelings. I know it has helped me.

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One evening several years ago, I was conducting a respiratory protection course for a group of painters. It was overtime pay, so that was cool, but they were a group of no-expression, half-asleep, didn’t-want-to-be-there students. I started out with my usual high-energy presentation but soon got discouraged because nobody was responding, so I switched to being a low-energy “just-read-the-lesson-plan” instructor.

During the first break, the painters’ foreman came up to me and said something like, “We’re sorry we’re not responding right. It has been a long, hard week of shift work for us. We know about you and how you make the class interesting. And we’re glad you’re our instructor tonight. You make a difference; we’re sorry.”

Without realizing it, that foreman had made a huge difference in my life! After that night, whenever I started to feel discouraged about my role as a safety supervisor and trainer, I remembered what that foreman had said to me.

You are in control

Every person feels discouraged at times. The bad news is, you’re doing it to yourself. The good news is, that means you are in control of the situation.

Two things that have helped me when I start to feel discouraged are from an awesome book, “The Four Agreements,” by Don Miguel Ruiz. The first one is to always do my best, no matter what situation I’m in. If you do the best you can, you’re less likely to feel discouraged no matter the outcome.

The second is to realize “my best” is not always the same! If you have the flu or weren’t able to sleep the night before, of course you’re not going to do as well as when you’re healthy and rested. But you can still do the best you can. The results may not be the same, but the effort will be. Realizing this and the fact that everything you do makes a difference – especially when you are interacting with other people – can go a long way toward keeping you encouraged.

Help others who are discouraged

If you are discouraged, especially at work, no doubt other people feel the same. Encourage them. Across the board, when researchers study the subject of what improves people’s moods, helping others is consistently found to make the helper feel better too. By changing the flow of your thoughts you will improve the way you feel. And who knows, just like that foreman’s words of encouragement that have helped me for many years, by encouraging others you might make a lifelong positive difference in someone’s life. Now that’s encouraging!

Richard Hawk helps companies around the world create more vibrant safety cultures by showing them how to make safety fun. As a professional speaker, author and musician, he also inspires employees to focus better and enlightens safety leaders about ways to increase their influence. To learn more about Richard, visit


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