None of us gets through life alone — and it’s important to pause and reflect periodically on the importance of having people in our lives who really honor and support us in life through thick and thin, whether that’s a whole tribe of individuals, just a few — or even just one. Whether family, friends, colleagues, advisors or some combination of all of these. That becomes increasingly so apparent to me as the years go by. And I’ve been seeing evidence of the importance of having a support structure all around me lately — in my own life and in the lives of others. It may be helpful to share some examples to illustrate this with more clarity.
Recently I had a conflict with a loved one that hit me hard; it didn’t help that it was within a couple of days of my birthday — a time that often sparks reflection, being sentimental, and celebration for me. The conversation was an important one for me (as was/is the relationship), and I had temporarily lost perspective in the wake of it. I’m blessed to have a few close friendships that I truly cherish; and with their support and insights I was able to pull through the encounter and regain my balance. Further, I got even more closure when I was able to speak with the other person involved a couple days later — and all was well once again. It was a painful process, but one I was able to get through by virtue of having conversations with trusted confidantes who are close to me.
In three unrelated cases recently, one client ended the relationship with her partner of several years and was laid low; she’s struggling even more because she doesn’t have much of a support structure around her. Another colleague is experiencing some really challenging circumstances in a highly political corporate environment (not unusual), and fortunately does have a terrific support structure of people who care to lean on. A third person, a close friend, just lost one of their parents; of course losing a loved one is a particular brand of challenging and grief can be 31 flavors of painful to paralyzing.
I just finished reading Sheryl Sandberg’s latest book “Option B” (co-written with Adam Grant) on her journey and observations after losing her husband Dave Goldberg suddenly who died very young and unexpectedly from an unknown heart condition. Dave was a long-time colleague of mine, and I know Sheryl — so it was hard to relive the whole experience again, but her courage and insights are inspiring. Fortunately Sheryl does have a terrific, relatively extensive support network — made up of long-time friends of hers and Dave, their families, their colleagues, advisors, clergy and more. For those who don’t, her book could be a lifeline; I recommend it!
No matter the specific circumstances, we all hit challenging periods in our lives where we need support. It’s during those times that you realize how vital it is to be able to turn to trusted others to lean on for perspective and guidance (and sometimes more — a place to stay, funds if conditions are dire, and a restful environment). So when things are calm in your life, take a moment to look around and note who in your world makes up your support system when times are tough; be thankful and grateful for them — and let them know how much you appreciate them. And of course be sure to be there for them when they’re experiencing struggles as well. Then when the tides turn and you hit high water, don’t hesitate to reach out to the people who really do care. It’s my belief that we weren’t put on this earth to go through life alone. Your supporters will see you through.