If I ever planned for any year, it was 2020. You can imagine my disappointment when things went awry. I heard “2020 is cancelled” chants a few times too many, as though we should just pause our lives and continue when the world resets in 2021. Considering the havoc wreaked in virtually every aspect of our lives, it was not hard to understand why some held that sentiment. But even amid the chaos, I had to press towards my goals, many of which now seemed unattainable. The competition for already inadequate opportunities became tighter. Too many times, I doubted my abilities and disqualified myself before trying. Luckily, I had the right set of people around me and every time I fell into the pit of self-doubt, they would boost my confidence back up.
The need for a support system
Many of us are familiar with imposter syndrome – that feeling when you only see your weaknesses and, in the process, sell yourself short. By always playing safe, we miss out on opportunities that we consider to be once-in-a-lifetime. Nothing extraordinary really comes out of living life like that. Getting out of that black hole requires effort, and the last thing you need when trying to boost your confidence to get more out of life is a community of people who feel like you’ve peaked and anything greater than your current position is greed. You know when you complain about your job and there is a 30-minute epistle about the high unemployment rate and why you should be grateful? Yeah, you don’t need that energy. Instead, surround yourself with people who push you to do even more than you think you’re capable of. You need a support system.
Where do you find support?
By default, we look to family and close friends for encouragement when making big moves. However, they’re not always the best for this role. We must realize that somebody loving us and wanting the best for us doesn’t automatically mean they know what is best for us or how to support us. You can ask creatives and techies who struggle to convince their parents that they have real jobs. No one person can be everything to you, and that’s fine! There are some people you go to for career advice and others for personal matters. If those closest to you can guide you, that’s great. Otherwise, you need to look outside your immediate circle and start exploring and strengthening your weak ties. For instance, there could be a Twitter connection, a former colleague, or your sibling’s friend that shares opportunities you could be interested in and guides people through the journey.
Things to note when choosing your support system
One key reason to explore weak ties is a variety of perspectives. Your close friends and family are likely to think like you, so if you want a change in speed, direction, or perspective, you need to interact with different people. No matter the environment, people are thriving and sometimes you just need to expand your network to see the right opportunities.
You need to learn what to share and with whom so your dreams are not shut down by people who can’t give you the support you need. Sharing your goal of becoming a billionaire with a communist and expecting support is simply illogical. Looking back, sometimes we realize that our ideas were not so crazy or unattainable. We just didn’t share with the people who could push us to execute on them. Remember that business idea that you dropped because your friends didn’t like the idea? Now your colleague and her sister have just started the business and it’s thriving. The problem wasn’t you or the idea; you just shared it with the wrong people.
For people to give you the support you need, they must know and understand your goal. If you don’t know your goal or can’t communicate it clearly, that’s on you. A support system should support your own goals, not make decisions for you or impose their ideas. Sometimes support comes in the form of correction and new information, so you might get a call to rethink your plans, rather than a call to march on. Having a support system does not absolve you of your duties to yourself. No one is responsible for your life, your decisions, and their outcomes, even if they gave you advice. It is your responsibility to perform due diligence and be well informed when making decisions, so you can own the outcome wholly – whether good or bad.
It’s about this time when we make plans and set audacious goals for the year ahead. If your current support system isn’t doing a great job, you may need to repurpose them and draft a new support system. The world is full of possibilities and it will be a shame if you let people rain on your parade. You need people to provide the ginger you need to dream big, take risks and get started. You need people who will push you to apply for that job, promotion or scholarship, charge more for your services, or start that business. Some of your goals may seem ridiculous, but you should at least try. With constant encouragement, what previously seemed impossible will become ambitious but possible. That’s the power of positive affirmation from a support system.
Life can be tough, but it definitely gets easier when we have people by our side through the journey. As we plan for the year 2021 and life generally, we should think about having a support system – a network of people who will encourage and push us to achieve our goals even when things are hard.
Lastly, don’t be a leech. Life is quid pro quo; you should look out for other people too.
So, who is on your support squad for 2021?
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