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How Do You Support Yourself?

By Claudette Rowley

"You can't help someone get up a hill without getting closer to the top yourself."--H. Norman Schwarzkopf

Is it better to go it alone or navigate life with a support system of friends, colleagues and people in your community who care about you and what you do? Most people probably nod their heads and say, "Yes, of course; establishing a support system is important." But in practice, our tendency is to believe that operating alone shows resilience, strength and a stiff upper lip.

What constitutes a support system? It's a collection of friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances who show a keen interest in listening, discussing and guiding - without judgment. "Without judgment" is key. You can't support and judge at the same time. It's not possible; if someone tells you it is, run the other way - fast!

What stops us from building a strong and vibrant network? Perhaps we want to show the world that we're strong and invincible. After all, we think, wouldn't asking for even occasional assistance give the perception that we're vulnerable? We fear these consequences - whether they're real or imagined. And this hurts us - personally and professionally. Yet cultivating a healthy support network nets many benefits: -

  • You feel better on all levels - mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.

  • Your productivity increases. Look at any successful person and you'll see an individual surrounded by an active support network of friends and advisors.

  • Your health improves. When we rely on a support system, our stress decreases and we rely less on other props, including food, alcohol or overwork.

  • Your life feels richer and fuller. As you form more connections, you recognize that each one, whether they're acquaintances, colleagues or intimate friends - serves a distinct and meaningful purpose in your life.

Sound impossible? It's not. Start by thinking through the following questions and you'll have a good sense of how to build a network that fits your lifestyle:

  • What does support look like to you? How do you feel when you're being supported? - What's working in your current support system? What's missing?

  • What "rules" do you make up about asking for help? For example, I recognized a rule that it was only okay to hire a babysitter for my son when I needed coverage for work - rather than for fun or self-care.

  • What does your ideal support network look like? How many people? What environments? How would you ideally communicate and interact with your friends, family or colleagues?

  • If you could order the perfect support system, what would change? How would you benefit? Get clear - write it down and post the description in a prominent spot.

Imagine receiving an abundance of support. Imagine it at home, at work and anywhere else that's important to you. Imagine knowing there's a safety net beneath you at all times - people prepared to catch you if you fall and ready to celebrate you succeed.

Most importantly, remember that life is not a solo act. We're meant to be interdependent, to connect with others, to form communities of like-minded people.

So get out there! Weave a strong, healthy support network and watch yourself grow and succeed beyond your wildest dreams.

Copyright © 2006 Claudette Rowley
Claudette Rowley, coach and author, helps professionals identify and pursue their true purpose and calling in life. Learn more at Claudette Rowley.com.

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