Celebrating Hard Things: Starting Your Own Encouragement Group

When I was a Ph.D. student at the University of Michigan, the dissertation process overwhelmed me. It’s one of the most difficult things I’ve accomplished in my life. In order to survive it, three friends of mine began what we called The Encouragement Group.

The Encouragement Group met once a week in our favorite coffee shop for two hours. Each member shared where they were in their own research and writing process.

Then the rest of us simply encouraged her.

We said nice things. We said kind things. We said inspiring things. We drank incredibly delicious teas and coffees and laughed. We asked questions and offered hope. We held hands and hugged. We read our work aloud and applauded.

The Encouragement Group didn’t allow for gossip, criticism, or complaint. We had enough of that from our professional environment. This little group shone so brightly across the landscape of our weary souls that all discouragement faded to the background.

We entered into the hard things, and we encouraged. We didn’t actually otherwise see one another during the week since we were either buried in books in the library’s stacks, in front of our computers, or enduring the stinging critique of our committees.

The solitary dissertation process means you often suffer alone.

All these years later, I wish I might have formed The Encouragement Group for all the other hard and often solitary things: raising babies, moving to new cities, enduring clinical depression for years, experiencing publishing rejection, struggling to be a better wife, managing conflict, seeing dreams die, losing loved ones. . .

Can you imagine a group of friends exclusively devoted to encouraging one another through a difficult task?

I remember The Encouragement Group and wonder about starting another one.

Have you had your own Encouragement Group?


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