Updated on 04.12.10

The People Around You

Trent Hamm

The single biggest advantage I’ve had in my life is that I’ve largely been surrounded by supportive people. My wife, my parents, my closest friends – all of them have always been incredibly positive towards everything I’ve ever chosen to do.

My mind continually goes back to the period in my life where I was trying to convince myself to make the leap into being a full-time writer. Rather than saying it’s something I couldn’t do or shouldn’t do, all of them encouraged me to do it when I decided the time was right.

Yes, they offered me input. Some of it was definitely constructive criticism. Yet I always knew that whatever I ended up choosing, they would be supportive and offer me any help they could even if they didn’t think the decision was the right one.

That made all the difference in the world in my decision to become a writer and a much more present father.

Photo by Daniel E. Bruce. Licensed under CC 2.0 Attribution Generic.

Supportive People in Your Life

The supportive people in your life often make all the difference between success and failure.

They tell you that you can do it rather than telling you that you can’t. Yes, sometimes we do attempt things that are simply beyond our reach, but we can never succeed if we never try, and we never try if we’re constantly told that we can’t do it. A supportive person tells you that you can do it, not that you can’t.

They encourage you to stretch yourself beyond where you think you can go. A truly supportive person can be aggressive and pushing, like a great coach. They encourage you to step beyond what you think you can do and push yourself even further than that.

They point you upwards when things look down. They don’t abandon you when you fail. Instead, they stick by you and tell you that things will shape up.

They encourage the better aspects of who you are. Either by example or by advice, they encourage the more positive aspects of your talents and your personality. The more you use them, the more prevalent they become as a natural part of who you are and how you behave.

They make you feel good about who you are. No one is perfect and it’s easy to get caught up in the negatives, especially when the people around you regularly point them out. Instead, look for the people who point out the positives and make you feel better about the person you naturally are.

They don’t expect you to be someone else to please them. If people are truly supportive, you don’t have to put on an act just to please them. You can be yourself and your natural positives simply come to the forefront.

You need to seek out the supportive people in your life and work on those relationships. Make an effort to spend more time around the people that make you feel good about yourself and what you’re doing and give you a sense that you can do it, whatever it is that you’re trying to accomplish.

If you’re trying to adopt new habits, seek out people who already have those habits ingrained in their life and will help you with theirs. If they are truly supportive, they won’t care that you make mistakes (aside from merely wanting to help you past them). That type of attitude from the people around you makes everything possible.

Photo by McKay Savage. Licensed under CC 2.0 Attribution Generic.

Minimize the Unsupportive People.

On the flip side of the coin is the unsupportive people. They’re the people in your life who you have to put on an act for. They’re the people who make you feel less happy about who you are and what you’re capable of. They’re the people who encourage your worst traits.

One of the most powerful moves you can make is to minimize the presence of such negative people in your life. For some people, this may mean moving away from a lot of the relationships in their life or away from relationships that they view as being deeply important.

Unless you’re personally responsible for that person (you’re a parent or a guardian), there is no relationship you shouldn’t back away from if that relationship is introducing negativity into your life.

Seek out a new set of activities. Break your routine. Instead of going out with the same set of negative people, go to a community activity. Call up an old friend you haven’t seen in a long time. Try something completely new.

You don’t have to define yourself by the negative people around you. There’s a world full of people out there and quite a lot of them are positive, well-meaning people. Spend your energy seeking them out and building relationships with them and leave the negative people in the dust.

Photo by the U.S. Army. Licensed under CC 2.0 Attribution Generic.

Be Supportive
Yes, it’s powerful to seek out supportive people and reduce your connection with unsupportive people, but you can have a profound influence on the supportiveness of those around you by simply being supportive of others.

Avoid negativity towards others. It’s easy sometimes to just say something negative towards someone who has made some form of a mistake, but such negative comments have both a negative effect on the person you say it to (often more than you realize) as well as a negative effect on you, reinforcing your own behavior as a negative person and an impression that bystanders gain of you as a negative person.

Look for something positive to say. On the other hand, saying something positive about someone else (or doing something positive with your time) has the opposite effect. It lifts the person you reach out to and also lifts (in a subtler way) the bystanders.

The positivity and negativity you give out comes back to you. If you’re negative, the people around you see you as being negative. You bring out negative behavior in others and you mutually bring each other down.

On the other hand, if you’re positve, the people around you see you as being positive. It brings out their positive behavior and they strive to bring you up.

It seems so simple, but it’s often so hard. Be positive towards others and seek out positive people and you’ll suddenly find that the world lifts you up instead of holding you down.

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  1. What a fabulous article!

    Like you, I’m fortunate enough to be surrounded by incredibly supportive people as I make the transition from full-time worker to full-time writer. And I agree, sometimes a few encouraging words are all you need to keep you on track towards your goals. :-)

  2. Crystal says:

    Great points! I’m happy with my life mainly due to the positive people in it. I hope I’m seen as a positive addition to their lives as well.

  3. Brent says:

    This point was highlighted for me in my teens. I was at a point where i was so frustrated and mad that I couldn’t think straight. A mentor pulled me aside and complimented me admiring some of my traits, encouraged me to rise above the problem, and offered his assistance if it got to be something I couldn’t rise above. By the time we finished talking my mood had returned to a positive state. I am very grateful for that man and that conversation. I want to be that man and to encourage the people around me to be their best.

  4. Amanda B. says:

    The only thing I would change about this is the people you would consider yourself “responsible for”. I don’t think having an unsupportive spouse is insurmountable. It can definitely be a problem, but not one that warrant divorce (which would be required to remove them from your life). In fact, a spouse can often be called “unsupportive” when in fact they are being grounded. For example, if Trent’s wife wasn’t working when he decided to pursue writing full time, she my have been more concerned with keep a roof over their heads than encouragement. I am sure, however, that Trent was not suggesting the immediate divorce from any spouse that doesn’t support one’s most trivial goals.

  5. I’ve had an mixed upbringing with respect to people that support me.

    When I was younger, non-support affected me to a high degree. But (and I suppose this is true with many like me) each year I aged, I became more confidence in myself and trusted my opinion.

    I try to do that same with my kids (especially my son), but every now and then, the way I was raised kicks in and I get impatient. I often have to apologies for coming across to hard on him…

    I hope I become more of a good dad and mentor for my children, but I’m still learning right along with them…

  6. brad says:

    thumbs down on the pics. if people mean enough to you to write a post about, upload a pic of them, not random clip arts.

  7. Brittany says:

    Second Brad. Random pics are super annoying.

  8. deRuiter says:

    You can learn a lot from some negative people. Thinking of starting a new business? Go talk to your friendly local banker and you’ll come away with loads of ideas of how failure can be easily achieved in your project. This is not to discourage you, it’s so that you can learn, from a person who has seen (bank loan officer) an incredible amount of human and business failure. Consider the source of negative comments. Use useful negative thoughts them as guides. Don’t let them depress you. On the other hand, there are people who only see the grim side and potential for failure, it’s their nature. This type of person is toxic and ought to be avoided and their conversation ignored, because they only want to drag you down into depression and failure. On the other hand, a constant cheer leader who always says, “Oh yes, do it, great idea!” to every single thought, idea, project, isn’t much help in the real world. It’s your responsibility to know your own mind and to seek advice (positvie and negative ideas) from those who are qualified to give guidance.
    Ditto to Brad’s and Brittany’s idea, lose the pointless clip art photos. They’re distracting.

  9. SLCCOM says:

    You also can’t assume that someone pointing out all the ways you can fail is necessarily “not supportive.” They may be playing Devil’s advocate, or just giving you a reality check. If the conversation includes areas that you need to work on before taking the leap, it is very positive. Or you may realize that you need a partner with strengths in your area of weakness.

    I think we all know people who we advised against a particular path because we could clearly see pitfalls they couldn’t, and sadly watched as they succumbed to the pitfalls that they blithely disregarded.

  10. I love this post. I particularly like the part about surrounding yourself with supportive people. I’ve linked this post to my blog to share with my friends. I feel like a winner just thinking about the support I get and I intend to be the one to give more in the future.

  11. Bobby says:

    yeah, wish i had that. Moved out east last year, company is full of greybeards resentful that their 401k are gone, can’t date due to time at work and lack of options (rural area, chaotic management), no friends to speak of.
    Trying my best to get back west, but the job market is appalling (1200+ applicants in 4 months, 10 interviews on the phone, no returns). Whiskey helps though!

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