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Support Systems

Over the years, I have spent a great deal of time writing about support systems. In life, professional and personal, you won’t survive without a support system. The need for a safe place to vent, grow, fall, and heal is a must. Life is hard, and cruel. The best way to combat the chaos is to exist in a group of people who have similar goals.

But the question is how to develop a support system. Should you actively recruit? Can your personal and professional support systems overlap? The short answer is yes, to all three. Over the years, I have found that a support system of friends and colleagues is much more effective. Family is not always a good addition. They can bring baggage, drama, and unfair expectations. Before counting on a family member, consider your previous interactions.

Here are my tips to help you cultivate a support group.

  • Be open to meeting new people. One of the best ways to build a support system is to meet new people. This can be done through volunteering, joining clubs or groups, or simply striking up conversations with people you meet in your everyday life. I love to volunteer. It gives me clarity because it forces me out of my head. Some of the most supportive people I have met are those I have volunteered with.

  • Be honest with yourself about what you need. What kind of support are you looking for? Do you need someone to talk to, someone to help you with practical tasks, or someone to just be there for you? Once you know what you need, you can start to look for people who can provide it.

  • Be willing to give back. A good support system is a two-way street. If you're looking for people to be there for you, you need to be willing to be there for them too. This means being a good listener, offering support, and being there for them when they need you. This is the most important rule. Always be willing to invest in them.

  • Be patient. It takes time to build a strong support system. Don't get discouraged if you don't find the right people right away. Just keep putting yourself out there and eventually you'll find the people who are right for you.

  • Be yourself. People are more likely to want to be in your support system if you're genuine and authentic. Don't try to be someone you're not. Be clear about your goals, and what you want to achieve. Ask for their input. But always be true to yourself.

  • Be positive. People are more likely to want to be around positive people. If you're always negative and complaining, people will eventually start to avoid you. I can't stand Negative Nellys, Debbie Downers, and Complaining Charlies. We all have bad days. Find ways to be positive in every situation.

  • Be forgiving. Everyone makes mistakes. If someone in your support system does something to hurt you, try to forgive them. Holding grudges will only hurt you in the long run.

  • Be grateful. Let the people in your support system know how much you appreciate them. A simple "thank you" can go a long way.

Remember, no support system or person is perfect. We all have off days. To build and cultivate a support group you have to be willing to overlook the bad, and focus on the good.

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