I have about 10 podcasts in my favorites list on Stitcher. One of them is the Do It Scared podcast. I only discovered this podcast a few weeks ago, so I’m playing catch-up – there are nearly 80 episodes so far, and I’m just getting halfway through all of them. I just listened to one where Ruth talked about having a support system. If you have a healthy level of support from family, plus some others, you’re in great shape. A lot of people don’t have a good support system, from having only marginal support from family & friends to being totally alone with almost no one in your corner.

Well, how do I know if I have a good support system? Like any good Baptist preacher, I have 3 points that describe what support looks like.

Encouragement – I’m sure we all understand how good encouragement is for the soul. It’s also important that we know that we all have positive qualities. Most of us can accurately say “I’m my own worst critic.” It’s fine to hold yourself to a high standard. But when someone tells you something they really like about you, it’s important not to dismiss it. Just say thank you. Hopefully your closest family and loved ones provide this type of encouragement. If not, make sure you are surrounded by like-minded people that can see your strengths and push you to make the most of them.

Even less supportive family can be enlisted in other ways. In the Do It Scared podcast, Ruth Soukup mentioned she didn’t have as much of the family support as she would have liked, such as from her husband. It’s not that he wanted her to fail, it’s that he didn’t understand that yes, you can make a very good living from blogging. So Ruth just asked him to be kind enough to ask her how her day was from time to time, and try to be engaged in that way. He could do that, and it helped her as she trudged through the tough times.  

Direction – While encouragement is certainly important, you won’t see much development if you surround yourself only with yes-people or people who only tell you how awesome you are. Every human makes mistakes and makes incorrect decisions and choices. An external observer is usually the one that will spot such things. This is where having a great coach will be invaluable.

Let’s also address a potential issue: You cannot have what we call in my home “tissue-paper feelings.” That’s how we describe people who are easily offended, take any constructive criticism personally, or lash out at people who say anything other than “you’re awesome.” Of course, if you’re offering constructive criticism to someone, you should never make it personal (“that was a bad choice” instead of “that was stupid”). Most people are just trying to help, and if you yell at them or melt into the corner crying whenever such talk begins, you won’t be able to correct the mistakes you make.

Community – Whatever you are striving to accomplish, connecting with others who are on the same path or have already achieved success is a very important part of your support system. There are a number of such groups I have utilized – my Toastmasters club, members of multiple online communities, and those great folks in VA 101 Mastermind, of course. I was talking 1-on-1 with one of the other members the other day, and we agreed this group is not just a learning center for VAs, but it’s a family. In this digital age, it isn’t too hard to find a good online community that will be a valuable partner in helping you reach your goals.

A good support system is essential to building the life you dream about. Those trusted people that help you ensure you are getting the encouragement, direction and sense of community are more than just friends or colleagues, they are as valuable as gold as you work toward your goals.

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