How to Build a Fortress Support System

While you might be wondering what a fortress support system is and if you really need one, let me first ask you a simple question… 

Are you surrounded by people who support and encourage you when things get rough and people to celebrate with when things are great? People you can trust and rely on in good times and bad? People that lift you up rather than drag you down?

If so, you have what I consider a fortress support system. No real need to read further.

If not, this is my attempt to help you build one, based on my experiences of building one for myself.

So if you’re up for the journey, let me start with a story…

Soon after having to drop out of university for the second time in two years, I isolated myself from all of my friends due to my mental illness. My support system included my family, mental health team and just a couple of close friends and mentors. I felt alone, like no one understood what I was going through, but I also saw an opportunity. An opportunity to re-build my support system, stronger than ever.

In re-integrating myself back at school, I would volunteer and join some sports and look for individuals that I connected with in some meaningful way. I kept my eye out for high performers who I’d ask to meet up for coffee chats. And I joined and started groups that were in line with my values, passions and interests.

As I was doing this, I was doing all I could to build my health, productivity and capacity in order to attract and keep up with these fellow students and mentors performing at high levels. 

The process of building took a while, and more than 5 years later it’s still a constant process, but man has it been a cool experience.

One of the most rewarding things has been to turn mentors into friends. Awesome people I can’t get enough of, that I now call close friends. 

The value they add is immeasurable. From sharing strategies they use, to connecting me to other people to inspiring me to step it up in every way, their support and encouragement is priceless.

Another rewarding experience has been deepening relationships with my family, girlfriend and people in a variety of communities - from the mental health community to the outdoor community and business/social enterprise communities. 

My support system at any given time includes: family, girlfriend, friends, mentors, colleagues and mental health team. All serve different, but overlapping purposes to me and I try to serve a purpose to each of them.

If you’re building a support system from scratch as I was, it takes time, but every additional person on your team can contribute to your recovery from illness, success in school, health, life or work, fulfillment and happiness and inspiration. The more effort over the long run you put into building and nourishing your support system, the more rewards it offers. But, don’t forget to work on yourself at the same time as an important piece to the puzzle is supporting, encouraging and inspiring the people in your support system as much as they do for you.

To get started, I’ve curated the process of building a strong (or fortress) support system to 3 main steps…

1) Start with What You’ve Got

We’ve all got some supports whether we’re happy with them or not. For the most part everyone has people that care about them, and that’s where we need to start to build from. From now on, spend less time with the people that are holding you back or binging you down and make an effort to reach out to those who lift you up and inspire you. The important thing to understand is that you control who you surround yourself with, so rather than taking a victims perspective, embrace that responsibility and all of the rewards that come with it.

2) Determine your Support System Needs

Your support system needs always depend on where you’re at, whether you’re currently struggling, or thriving and trying to get to the next level. You need different people in your life at different times, for different purposes. If you’re struggling, it might not be a good time to reach out for mentors and your time might be better spent focusing on 1-2 close friends, family and professional supports like a doctor, therapist or counsellor. Wherever you’re at, it’s important to know that this is a life-long process of building and strengthening. People come and go in and out of our lives more than ever these days, especially with the global nature of our economy and increased access to travel. This makes it more important than ever to continuously build and re-build our support teams.

3) Find people you believe in and get them to believe in you

To supercharge your support system and truly build a fortress support system, you need people you believe in that also truly believe in you. Having someone that you believe in believe in you is a powerful experience. They will often see strength, skill and awesomeness in you that you can’t even see yourself. This should be the case for your entire inner circle, but there will always be one or two people that believe in you much more than the average person. Keep these people close and let their belief in you strengthen your confidence and purpose.   

Some closing thoughts...

Don’t hold back your dreams with your support system, even if they don’t support them at first. Find those people that do believe, that do support and build off of that until more people believe. 

If you lose a key piece of your support system for any reason, take note and do your best to re-build. 

Constantly be on the lookout for those people that you connect with on a deep level, those people that you believe in and especially those key people that believe in you. Make the effort to reach out and make sure to nourish these relationships in good times and bad.

With that, be patient and build for long term strength and stability, inspiration and belief and before long, you’ll have yourself a Fortress Support System.

If you’re interested in this topic, leave a question or comment and I’ll make sure to review and reply to each one.

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Thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing from you!!

Keep Well and Keep Inspiring!!

- Brent, @brentseal

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