At 55 years old I enrolled in a Master of Divinity degree program. I was working full time, trying to be a good husband and dad, and I hadn’t been in a classroom in almost 30 years. Ideal conditions for the manifestation of stress bordering on panic.

Two years into the program I was ready to quit. I called the registrar’s office to discuss the possibility of getting some money back if I unenrolled. Martha, the registrar, was extremely sympathetic and understanding. But then she said something I will never forget. She told me “I will not let you quit. Ed you have come to far and you can do this.” Then she really got strict with me. “You are going to get up every morning and you are going to tell yourself that you can do this, because you are awesome.”

I was blown away by her confrontation, but I did what she said. I became my own best cheerleader. The pressure from work never let up. The school work got even harder. And with our daughter in her Sr. Year of High School, it seemed like I never had enough time to be a good Dad. Yet every day, I told myself I could do it, and eventually, I graduated.

Dressed in my cap and gown, The first thing I did after I received my diploma was to find Martha. I thanked her for her encouragement and for getting me through. She hugged me and told me how happy she was I hadn’t quit but reminded me that I graduated because I told myself that I could do it.

In life, we all need Cheerleaders who get us through the dark times and as a parent you know that you will have some dark times. When the unrelenting pressure to be the best employee and the best parent have you ready to scream, you need someone to tell you that you can do this. That someone is you.

Many years ago when the Cincinnati Reds were the dominant team in Baseball, I had the opportunity to watch The Big Red Machine on Television one afternoon. The opposing team had loaded the bases and were behind by just one run in the 9th inning.

The reason bases were loaded was because the young pitcher had walked two batters and given up a base hit with 2 outs. It didn’t look good for the Reds.

Coming to the plate was the clean-up batter. The Reds pitcher took him to a full count. Pete Rose, who was playing third base, called for a time out and went and spoke very briefly to the struggling pitcher.

His next pitch was a scorcher. The batter, swinging for the fences missed by several feet. Game over. Reds win. Pandemonium ensued.

When the reporters asked the winning pitcher what it was that Rose had said to him, he shrugged his shoulders and said, “He told me that he thought I could strike the guy out.” Then he said, “I believe it, do you?” That young man needed to convince himself that he could do this. He could win this game. It wasn’t until his own internal cheerleader took over his thinking that he could succeed.

We may get encouragement from others, and they may act as incredible motivators for us. But until we take the step to believe in ourselves, to become our own best cheerleaders, we are stuck on the mound convinced of our failure.

Take decisive action to cheer yourself on today. Write down 5 great things about yourself. Post those things on the refrigerator or on your bathroom mirror so you can see them every day. Start each line with I am… Don’t pick from your physical attributes (I tried that with my hair but it all fell out anyway). Instead, pick those things that will affect your stress level. You might put something down like, “I am great at juggling all of the kid’s activities and my Job”. You may not believe it right now, but I do. You can do this.

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