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Go Ahead, Ask for Help

Here's a 30-minute exercise to help you build your personal support system and achieve greater success.

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One of the hardest lessons for me to learn--but one that changed my life profoundly--was the importance of asking for and receiving help.

As a career strategist, I work every week with mostly mid- to senior-level professionals from around the U.S. on career changes, launching new businesses and identifying, finding and creating work that is a fit for them inside and out.

Hands down, people who are comfortable asking for and receiving help--whether from a coach, therapist, mentor, professional organization, business partner or colleague--experience greater success and feel more connected and confident at home and at work.

Having a support system can have a huge impact on how you experience day-to-day life. Research shows that individuals who have robust support systems:

  • Are more effective at work and at home (they feel as if they have a "team" behind them and that they're not all alone).
  • Keep resolutions, particularly those involving their health and physical well-being.
  • Weather personal and professional challenges more easily.
  • Are less likely to feel overwhelmed and find it easier to maintain perspective.
  • Stay healthier on all levels--mentally, physically and emotionally.
  • Are less likely to feel isolated (isolation can lead to feelings of despair and failure).
  • Experience less stress and burnout.
  • Have children who are comfortable asking for and receiving support and help from others.

This month, I challenge you to give yourself the gift of support (one of the kindest forms of self-care). Set aside 30 minutes to work on the following exercise, designed to help you build your personal support network. Afterward, share your completed support wheel with a friend or family member, and take action.

Instructions: Draw a large circle and visualize yourself standing in the middle. Divide your circle--or "support wheel"--into four categories: self, work/community, family/marriage and household. Create your personal support network by filling in the four quadrants as needed. (Refer to the list below for ideas or come up with your own list.)

A few things to keep in mind when creating your support network:

  • Everyone's support system will look different; this is about what you need to feel fully supported where you are right now.
  • Your support system will change depending on your life stage, current needs and the age of your children and your parents (if you're involved in their care, as well).
  • Choose friends/colleagues whom you admire for their experience/insight and enlist the support of those whose lives reflect the values/beliefs you admire. Your support system may not include your family members--they are only one of many resources.
  • Consider how to turn this support wheel into something you'll use every day. For example, it might be a list of phone numbers you keep at arm's reach or a visual chart on your bulletin board in your office or kitchen.

Your personal support system is not limited to, but may include:

  • Professional/personal mentors
  • Professional development and networking organizations
  • Professional or skills-based teachers, instructors or trainers
  • Work/life balance, business or career coach, or groups such as Self-Renewal Groups for Women.
  • Professional peers/colleagues
  • Friends with kids and friends without kids
  • Neighbors
  • Play groups or social groups specifically for parents
  • Parenting education groups/activities/instruction/support
  • Babysitting co-ops (start one in your neighborhood)
  • Child-care providers and pediatricians
  • Social or creative groups such as book or hobby groups
  • Therapist, counselor and support groups
  • Spiritual mentors, groups or a community
  • Financial consultants or advisors
  • Online support communities, teleclasses, etc.
  • Family members
  • Meal co-ops (start one in your neighborhood) and meal-delivery programs
  • Personal concierge or errand service
  • Home care/cleaning and yard care help
  • Bodywork and health specialists (physicians, chiropractors, acupuncturists)
  • Menopause/hormone health specialists, nutritionists, personal trainers, massage therapists

Renee Peterson Trudeau is president of Austin-based Career Strategists, a coaching/consulting firm dedicated to helping professionals and entrepreneurs navigate their career path successfully. Trudeau's work has been featured in US News and World Report, Working Mother, American Way, Family Circle, AARP and numerous business publications and consumer media. Trudeau is the author ofThe Mother's Guide to Self-Renewal: How to Reclaim, Rejuvenate and Re-Balance Your Life.