Parenting Pathway #149: The Support Factor

No one does it alone. There may be those who stumble through life, abandoned by family, shunned or scorned by peers and colleagues and who die completely alone. I doubt, however, that they would consider their lives enjoyable or successful. 

We•ve all heard the speeches. What do Oscar winners, Miss America, Masters Champions, Nobel Prize honorees and victorious political candidates have in common? They all thank someone.

Those who achieve any measure of success recognize the value in the support factor. They know that the focus required to deliver an award winning performance would not be possible without others who are willing and able to assist with the demands of the other factors in everyone’s life. So, in order to maintain a balanced life equation one must either have a substantial support factor or have other factors that require very little energy. 

In his book How Full is Your Bucket?, Tom Rath, with the help of his grandfather and co-author, Don Clifton, recounts several personal stories about how the support of his extended family made it possible for him to face the challenges in his life with courage and tenacity, emerging with insight and wisdom. He was consistently uplifted with positive feedback. His family was there for him at all the important moments in his life. They were there, not only to share in the celebrations but to help shoulder the burden of fear, disappointment and grief as well.

I have seen firsthand the power of support in action. Likewise, I have felt its absence. I’ve yearned for the comfort of its presence and the impact it makes on the lives of beneficiaries. Rath noted that he •benefited from a unique method of child rearing (that) defied the conventional wisdom at that time.• •Unique• because he had his whole extended family around while many people in the latter half of the 20th century were separating themselves from their families in order to climb the ladder of success. 

In most cases, success meant moving away to go to college and then following the best job offer wherever it took you. With a better job came more money, but also more demands. But with more money you could afford to pay someone else to do the things that the work demands didn’t leave time for: cooking, cleaning, laundry, gardening, and of course, childcare. If you decided to start a family, chances are you were no longer able to rely on a trusted family member to take care of your children while you worked outside the home.

Although I would agree with Rath that his experience was not the norm, many people of our generation have come to realize the value of family as they try to balance their life equation, given the demands of work and the other factors. But what if family and other traditional networks of support are 1,000 miles away? 

That’s when it becomes especially important to surround ourselves with others who we can look to and count on, not only to assist in times of need, but also to share those great moments of celebration and achievement. We need to make positive connections with everyone we meet.

Erin Zammett, an editor for Glamour magazine, a cancer survivor, and a champion fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society writes in her bookMy So Called Normal Life, •I wanted people to think kindly of me, to send nice thoughts about me into the universe•I figured I could use all the good karma I could get.•

But it is more than just generating good karma. It’s about having someone there to hold your hand or give you a hug or just listen to you cry when you don’t think you can face the day. It’s about having a choice of people to call when you need to run some emergency errand and your child is finally sleeping and you can’t bear to wake her up. It’s about facing 5 deadlines at once and knowing you can count on at least a handful of people who can jump in there with you and do just about anything for you so that the package goes out on time. The only way to have that support is to give it and cultivate it over time.

Coaching inquiries: Who will you be thanking on Oscar night? Who can you include in your Support Factor? What 3 things can you do TODAY and every day to make sure you have a support factor? Start small by doing small tasks that cost you nothing like thanking everyone who does absolutely anything for you, and doing it with a smile. Just being kind and respectful to everyone who crosses your path goes a long way to spreading that good karma.

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May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Amy Haas (
LifeTrek Coaching International
Columbus, OH

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