“We want people who understand us and can be depended upon during tough times,” explains Cathy Williams, MSW, LCSW, CEAP. “We need people who listen and give us honest feedback.”
A support system equips you with tools to cope with stress and increases your life expectancy. Support reduces depression and anxiety. Williams adds, “Giving and receiving support from others is a basic human need.”
Leanne Fredrich, life coach and blogger at AmazingMondays.com, insists, “When you are with your tribe [or your support system], you feel inspired to create, take chances and most of all you feel at home. Even if your passion requires a certain amount of solitude, you still need a tribe.” Although circumstances may force you to spend large amounts of time by yourself or with people you would not typically choose as friends, your support system is a central network with whom you find trust, mutual support, and strength.
It is particularly difficult to build a new support system after you’ve experienced a jolting life change such as a move, school or job change, or relationship changes. Unlike family, Ken Robinson, author of The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, explains, “Tribe members can be collaborators or contributors.” He adds, “What connects a tribe is a common commitment to the thing they feel born to do. This can be extraordinarily liberating, especially if you’ve been pursuing your passion alone.”
In my book, Dreams to Action Trailblazer’s Guide, I explain how to build your support system. Surround yourself with people who eagerly encourage you and celebrate your success. Build supportive relationships. Networking events, Mastermind groups, neighborhood clubs, and school and church activities offer opportunities for like-minded individuals to share similar goals, acknowledge progress, and hold one another accountable for completing individual and group projects and commitments.
You may have more than one support system. Consider these questions as you think about finding or adding new members to your circle of support:
Do I have one or more close friends?
Do I take part in social activities?
How am I (or how can I become) involved in active service to others?
Do I have hobbies?
Do I take part in social activities?
Who can I talk to when I need emotional support?
How do I define my family?
How can I be more supportive and engaged with my family?
In what ways can I let my family know what support I need?
Mental and Intellectual Support
What new skills or information would I like to learn?
Do I want to learn or pursue a new hobby or interest?
Where would I like to learn it?
Career and Educational Support
What is my ideal job?
What skills and knowledge do I use or need to maintain or pursue my career and educational goals?
How can I learn new skills and knowledge?
What resources are available to finance other goals?
How much would I like save and invest my resources?
How would I like my share my wealth with others?
Do I have a regular practice of prayer or meditation?
Do I belong to a spiritual community?
How would I like to become more actively involved in spiritual community activities?
Seth Godin, author of Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, explains, “For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.” Trust your instincts to guide you to the right people. And trust your instincts enough to know when it is time to part ways with member of your tribe. Not all relationships are permanent – nor are they meant to be.
When someone enters your life for a reason, you typically share a common purpose, desire, or interest. Like an ad hoc committee, you move on after you meet or fulfill your common purpose. Relationships that evolve over the course of a season provide you with support, encouragement, and opportunities to learn and grow. Seasonal relationships may change when you move, change jobs, or change relationships. Lifetime relationships stand the test of time and are grounded in strong emotional commitments to one another. Even in death, the relationship can change, but the love endures.
19th century philosopher, William James, wrote, “The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitude of mind. If you can change your mind, you can change your life.”
So, how do you start to build a support system? Creating a strong network takes time. You don’t have to know how to move forward; you only have to be brave enough to take the next step.
Trust your judgement. Listen to your instincts. A circle of support is waiting for you.
Who is in your support system? Who would you like to include in your circle of support?
Need help expressing what you want to say? Check out How to Say What You Want & Need.
Free yourself from negative, self-defeating thoughts with suggestions from Replace Old Tapes with New Messages.
Do you have people who mistreat you? Try these tips from How to Stand Up to Bullies.