“Friends are like bras: close to your heart and there for support.” Sunkissd248

Support is a tricky word. I do like the implication of the Online Dictionary’s definition of support: “To hold in position so as to keep from falling, sinking or slipping or to strengthen.” Support means different things to different people. To some, “support” means giving their time, money or both to their favorite cause. To others, the word might be a call to support our troops fighting in a foreign country or supporting a political party to win an election. In organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Al-Anon, being part of a support system is the key to both recovery as well as achieving and keeping physical, mental and spiritual health. Yet, to some, asking or giving support is just too “touchy /feely”. However you want to look at it, having a support system, group, team, circle or what ever you choose to name it is one of the key elements to living an exceptional life.
The reality is that as we move through life’s peaks and valleys, a solid support system can bless us with family and friends who celebrate our wins, comfort and encourage us at our low points, cheerlead us through our endeavors and lend a hand when needed. Cultivating and nurturing a support team can be one of the most important projects you undertake – on a number of levels.
Here are three personal life-changing examples.
In 1984, I was going through a career minefield and I absolutely knew that I needed to reinvent myself and simply did not know how to do it. Bringing together a group of my closest friends for two days, we brainstormed my life, taking it apart and putting it back together again. Out of this wild two days with what I then called my “leaper colony”, came the creation of The Quantum Leap Thinking Organization and what would become a dream career of speaking and coaching. I simply could not and did not want to do it alone.
In 2002, more dear friends threw themselves into helping make my one-man show on Broadway an absolute, phenomenal success. I could not have done it alone.
In August of 2009. I underwent open-heart surgery to replace my aortic valve. Both friends and family called and asked what they could do to help. What stands out most in my mind is that my wife arranged for no more than two people to visit me at home once a day, everyday, for an hour. I was showered with food, gifts and, most importantly, love. This generous show of support over a period of weeks elevated my mood and contributed enormously to my healing.
If my personal examples aren’t enough, consider this: a number of clinical studies tracking individuals over decades have concluded that, those who maintained strong connections with family, close friends, and community had significantly lower rates of mental and physical health disorders. The truth is that a strong network of supportive family and friends act as a giant buffer against life’s stressors.
Having a strong support system does not magically materialize and it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It takes clarity, self-awareness, focus, energy and a willingness to help others without expecting a payback.

1. The first major step to cultivating a network of healthy support is to make a personal commitment to yourself, because – it all begins with you. Commit to treating yourself with kindness and compassion. First, become your own cheerleader. If you can’t do it for yourself, why would anyone else want to jump on your band wagon?
2. Define your own needs, limits and boundaries. Your clarity will help you get your priorities in order and help make clear to others the kind of support they can give you.
3. Take an honest look at the people who are already close to you. Appreciate their strengths and limits and accept them for who they are. No one can be everything at once. Not everyone can be a teacher, confidant, helper, and cheerleader or give you emotional comfort in the same way. For example, my wife gives me one kind of support, my personal assistant another. In addition, each of my friends is unique and has distinctive talents and interests and each one gives me a different kind of support.
4. Ask for help when you really need it and be specific about what you want. Many people hesitate to ask for support yet – people really do want to help other people. And, if they help once, they will often help again. In his autobiography, Ben Franklin wrote, “He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another than he whom you yourself have obliged.” Others will become invested in your success.
5. Nurture your support system. Look around at your family and friends and constantly be on the lookout for what you can do to help them achieve their dreams or reduce their stress. You receive by giving and, if you give support without expecting anything in return, I’m sure you will receive all the support you will ever need.
6. Be a very good listener. One of the most effective ways to show support is to be a good listener. Your willingness to listen without judgment and with an open heart is healing.
7. Show gratitude. If you want to have a solid support system, never take anyone for granted and always express your gratitude.
Don’t wait until a crisis happens before you begin to build your support network. Support is the glue that deepens relationships. Follow these seven tips and you will live an exceptional life.