The Importance of a Social Support Network in Achieving Your Goals
Written by Justin Wright

Arnold Schwarzenegger is famous for saying that he believes the concept of a self-made man is a myth. When he spoke at the University of Houston, he stated, “I wouldn’t be here without my parents, my mentors, my teachers.”

Developing a Social Support Network has numerous benefits, both mental and physical. Supportive behaviors have been shown to reduce stress and to reduce feelings of isolation, leading to better long-term emotional health. While these benefits seem self-explanatory, how does a social support network positively impact goal-setting? Furthermore, how can you utilize this support to ultimately be more productive and more successful?

What is a social support network?

Finding a network of people who can provide guidance and assistance is critical for achieving your goals. Doing hard work in isolation is incredibly difficult, and accomplishing daunting tasks will inevitably require a good deal of hard work. The bigger your goals, the more social support you will ultimately need to be successful.

Think about the difference in effort required in completing a single project at work versus building a successful company. Both of these things can be goals, but the input required for each is vastly different. To put this into a fitness context, think about the difference in difficulty of getting your first muscle-up and qualifying for the CrossFit Games. As you can imagine, the latter requires a much larger support network and is almost impossible to do alone.

Try not to confuse a support group with a support network. A support group is generally put in place to handle a crisis situation or to help provide a community for overcoming some type of destructive behavior. These involve support groups for eating disorders, addiction, etc. A support network, on the other hand, is a collection of family, friends, peers and mentors who provide guidance and add value to your life. They can offer advice, physical resources, perspective and feedback to bolster your resolve and help provide direction when you may be lost or confused on your journey. Support networks also provide a sense of belonging, increased feelings of self-worth and increased feelings of security.

Forms of Social Support

Social support comes in four major forms, each expressed by a different type of person in your support network:

Emotional Support

These are expressions of empathy, love, trust and caring. Emotional support resonates with you on a personal level.

Instrumental Support

These are concrete, tangible forms of assistance. This involves someone in your network sacrificing some resource for your benefit.

Informational Support

These are suggestions, information, advice or other knowledge to assist you. This can be both professional or personal, depending on the type of information.

Appraisal Support

These are similar to informational situations, but instead focus on information that is directly relevant for self-evaluation. Constructive criticism falls under this category.

Identifying Who is Best to Provide Each Type of Support

Each of these forms of support are useful and relevant in differing situations. It is also important to understand that they will often be provided by very different people in your support network.

For example, it would be entirely appropriate for your spouse to provide emotional support by loving and encouraging you during the times when working on your goals becomes arduous and difficult. They can provide a unique viewpoint as your life partner that others in your network may not have. Emotional support can also come from parents or close friends who know you on a deeper, personal level.

A professional mentor, on the other hand, would be more likely to provide informational support by giving you increased knowledge and offering the perspective of someone who has likely already accomplished what you have set out to do.

An effective boss or manager may provide frequent doses of appraisal support by providing valuable feedback or criticism to help you perform better and optimize your efforts as you work towards your goals.

Instrumental support can come from many sources: your spouse may be willing to pick up more hours at work so that you can spend more time building your business, or a close friend or mentor may be willing to lend you startup money for this same business.

Regardless of what form the social support takes, all of them are equally important and effective. The more daunting the task in front of you, the bigger support network you will likely need. As your goals increase in scope, you will find that each type of support will be well-suited to a particular aspect of accomplishing that task.

To go back to our example of qualifying for the CrossFit Games, you would need support in each of these forms throughout the process. Emotional support from your friends and loved ones would help them be empathetic to how much time you are spending in the gym, how strict you are with your diet, and the fact that you would likely miss many social events.

Instrumental support may come from sponsors or members of your gym who help provide funding and resources for you to travel to competitions.

Informational support would come from your coach who tailors your training to best prepare you, or from another athlete you know who has already qualified in the past and knows what it takes.

Appraisal support may be the most useful in accomplishing this particular goal; the friend or peer who convinces you that you are adequately prepared, and instills belief in yourself when you step out onto the competition floor falls under this category. Each is valuable, and each is necessary along the way.

How to Develop a Support Network

Developing your support network can be as simple as informing those around you that you are undertaking a new task or working towards a new goal. Part of effective goal-setting requires you to share your goals with your network. If your friends and family know what you are trying to accomplish, they will likely be more willing and prepared to offer assistance when and if they can. On top of creating support, this also creates accountability! You are more likely to succeed if you don’t want to let those around you down and if you have the additional support you need when the going ultimately gets tough.

If the people in your life don’t understand your goal, or aren’t willing to provide assistance, then it is important that you look elsewhere. Seek out those with similar ideas or with a similar mindset. With the advent of social media, there are countless support networks on Facebook where people share thoughts and ideas. A quick Google search will turn up various groups and support networks in every major city and area around the world. Start spending time around those people, and start seeking out people who are trying to accomplish the same things you are.

The environment that you spend time in determines how your genes are expressed, and ultimately determines the type of person you become. Jim Rohn famously said that, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

Surround yourself with like-minded individuals so that you can not only grow your support network, but also be part of the networks of others. Your gym community is a great place to start! Find those in the classes you take or the events you attend who have similar goals and work to help each other succeed. Encourage those around you to push themselves and set increasingly challenging goals. Try to always under-promise and over-deliver; go out of your way to provide support to others and watch as that support, in turn, is provided back to you.

Mentors are another great resource. These are individuals who have achieved a level of success in their field that you ultimately want to attain. Mentor-mentee relationships are incredibly useful because they can teach you to avoid the mistakes they inevitably made along the way. Failure is life’s greatest teacher, but learning how to avoid common pitfalls from someone who has been there before can save you valuable time and frustration. Mentors almost always love being mentors! Don’t hesitate to reach out to someone you think fits the mold and can provide help and guidance to you, chances are they will jump at the opportunity.

When should I change my support network?

Knowing that you are the sum of those you surround yourself with, it is equally important to know when your support network is no longer serving your best interests. Sometimes, when you set large goals, those around you may become uncomfortable because of your drive and determination. Some people in life are perfectly content being mediocre, and these people are often the first to try and douse your flame when you work towards a new goal. If you find yourself surrounded by negativity and are not receiving the support you need, consider changing the people you look towards for support.

The support network is a symbiotic relationship; they should be providing as much value as you provide to them. If you find that individuals in your life are taking far more than they give, consider cutting them out of your life or minimizing your interactions with them. It sounds harsh, but the reality is that you cannot afford to let people be a drain on your energy and prevent you from accomplishing your goals.

Alternatively, as your goals change so too must your support network. If you have supportive family and friends then they will always be a part of your network. However, if your goals change then you may be forced to alter your network to attain the help and support that you need. The mentors or peers required to qualify for the CrossFit Games are likely quite different than the mentors and peers required to build a successful business. Routinely audit your support network to ensure that those who are providing information, support, and guidance are actually helping you accomplish your goals. Also realize that it is entirely likely that your support network will be slightly different for different goals!

Invest in Yourself

It is almost impossible to accomplish most tasks if you go at them completely alone. As you accomplish your goals and they compound to form bigger, loftier goals, realize that your support network oftentimes must evolve as well. Seek out mentors who have been down that road before, and seek to learn as much as you can from those with valuable information to give.

At the end of the day the smartest investment you can make is investing in yourself; surround yourself with supportive individuals who can teach you valuable lessons, and try to absorb as much of that information as you can. When challenges come, which they inevitably will, lean on your support network to help you keep your head above water and ultimately succeed. You must also be willing to provide the support and guidance that others around you may need from time to time. Building a support network is a two-way street and requires you to give just as much as you get back. No matter what form your support network takes, it will prove to be one of the most valuable resources you have in helping you accomplish your goals!

We’ve developed a FREE Goal Setting Guide to help you set effective goals. Get yours here!

Also Check Out…

Mini-Milestones in Goal Setting

Why People Commonly Fail at New Year’s Resolutions

What is Effective Goal-Setting?

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Mary sword
Mary sword
April 22, 2024 5:34 am

I love this discussion I really have no support in life it’s really just me everybody tells me your too old to go back to school your 53 years old,but I don’t listen to them i k ow what i can do i have been tru alot in my life.I have beaten cancer twice so if I can fight and still be alive I can accomplish anything I am a fighter and I do not give up I have no one to turn to to talk to about all of this except my boyfriend and he is incarcerated at the… Read more »

Shawn M Yarborough
Shawn M Yarborough
April 21, 2024 3:10 pm

I don’t understand. Some of us (Me) don’t have any of those kinds of people in their lives. I have no one to turn to or to talk to about anything. I am a true loner. I do what I have to do on my own. I am my own support network.

jesse c
jesse c
April 23, 2024 12:39 pm

I am having the same issue. I need to learn how to reach out.

April 4, 2024 7:24 pm

Wow this is correct.i have to my self …and start a support network . I ..I don’t wanna fail behind or lake there of smarts.becauae I couldn’t figure it out or didn’t reach out to my network …thank u for this

Antonio Davidson
Antonio Davidson
March 31, 2024 4:30 pm

I really like this article ,I especially like the part of the article on investing in yourself .Often times we are so busy at work , doing things for others etc. We done put the necessary time needed for our own tasks.

March 29, 2024 9:20 am

I enjoyed reading this article. The funny thing is I had to come back twice to read it. I have got to cut some people out of my social life. They suck the life out of you. I almost would rather have no support than have a lousy social life. Very informative.

April Sab
April Sab
March 29, 2024 7:53 am

This Article was familiar to me; I went through all of these challenges, and I finally decided to invest in myself and prioritize my career and work. I am happier, more peaceful, and more positive. It’s all about who you are connecting with and which environment you are spending your time. 

Kaleeia Johnson
Kaleeia Johnson
March 28, 2024 12:54 pm

This article challenged what I thought I knew about support! And how it truly worked! How your environment plays a major part in your growth and support!
Not only that getting rid of people who is not contributing to the growth, or support!

Tamrah Frazier
Tamrah Frazier
March 26, 2024 5:28 pm

This was a wonderful article on support networks. I enjoyed the part about changing your support network. I have cut a few people off due to negativity and doubt. So, now I’m looking for a few to add to my support network.

Selma R
Selma R
March 21, 2024 8:57 am

Very helpful information. With a Support Network and system, you don’t have to do it alone. They are line minded and are encouraging you to keep going. The reward will be attainable when you allow others to be included in knowing your goals. They can help you reach your goals and continue to succeed in the future.

Gabriel B.
Gabriel B.
March 18, 2024 6:58 pm

I really enjoyed this article but I really enjoyed the section about when should you change your support network. Recently I have had to do that, cut off loose ends or stragglers that way us down or leeches that suck and never give back into another. This whole article hit home.

PJ Larsen
PJ Larsen
March 16, 2024 1:18 pm

What a great read and really puts you in the right mindset!

jason c cozza
jason c cozza
March 14, 2024 3:03 pm

Good outline focused and direct.

Jerrese Williams
Jerrese Williams
March 2, 2024 2:38 pm

Good support and a positive mindset will always help with success

Jennifer Vargas
Jennifer Vargas
March 1, 2024 9:07 pm

Support is everything because i truely believe that if everyone would have to do things on their own without having any help or support, then i think that this world would be awhole lot more hectic.

Marcus J Hebert
Marcus J Hebert
February 29, 2024 8:29 am

I’ve been told several times in life, it’s always better to hang out with successful people For your own good . For instance,If your interested in being a successful car salesman .Just hang out with car salesman that sells a lot of cars . If you’re hanging out with a whole bunch of hobos and bums that don’t feel like doing anything well if you’re probably not going to want to do anything either. Happy people promote happiness sad people promote sadness. My biggest thing is to stay away from negative people. People always trying to drag you into their… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Marcus J Hebert
February 27, 2024 2:24 pm

The support I get through out my life helps shape my life for the better.

Destiny Cook
Destiny Cook
February 25, 2024 11:16 am

Support is everything . I couldn’t imagine going through what I’ve been through without the help of support . Emotionally and physically … we often get supported in so many ways than we actually recognize .

Emily Wood
Emily Wood
February 23, 2024 1:09 pm

I am very much an extrovert so attending school online can pose it’s own set of difficulties however, the network appears to be very strong at this school with a multitude of resources and forms of support for the students.

Jesula Marcellus
Jesula Marcellus
February 9, 2024 3:53 pm

to be honest even though I am taking online classes, I do not feel isolated, may be is because of my busy schedule, when I get home from work I had some other things to do before I start doing my home assignment, the word I would use, is a lot of times I feel I am under a lot of pressure, because I know there is a deadline to turn in my assignment, now something I started doing is sometime I would go to the public library, but I like all of the information that I read, they all… Read more »

Cierra Manigault
Cierra Manigault
February 8, 2024 9:33 am

This is Very interesting to know about because it tells you about a lot of important information you need to know about your goals and social life.

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