Who doesn't want to be happy and successful? Even though our definitions of happiness and success may vary, the desire for them is alive in each one of us. But many of us find that if we are happy or successful, these things tend not to be sustainable "wins." Often happiness and success can definitely feel fleeting...like trying to hold water in your hand, they have a way of slipping away. But if we go deeper and bring some light to what I would call the "precursors" of happiness and success, we may just find that this puzzle is not as difficult to solve. In this piece, we will explore the makings of happiness and success and its connection to the all important relationship between challenge and support.
We may feel separate as individuals, but as humans collectively, we do have many things in common. We all need to eat, sleep and drink water, but of course the types and amounts of these things we ingest or how long we rest is due to individual preference or an individual's challenges. For instance, you may have trouble sleeping, and if you do, you may also have a lack of a hormone called "leptin." If you lack this hormone, you may want to eat more rather than less. So there are myriad examples that exist for our own individual experience. That said, I'm sure we can all agree that we all need food, water and sleep. We might say the same about happiness and success. Even though you will chase your own versions of them, understanding the relationship balance of challenge and support is important because they are precursors that will bring both: more happiness and success on your journey.
I cannot impress upon you enough how important this balance of support and challenge is in life, in relationships and in your work. When you know what your personal equation of support to challenge is--to hit your unique sweet spot--then you start opening new doors and experience more personal security and freedom. When you have a good balance of support and challenge, you feel alive. You feel present, secure and confident. You can more easily let go of anxieties, burdens and issues that weigh you down. If you are living with less happiness and success than you would like, exploring your balance of support and challenge in your life may yield some wonderful clarity. This is a great place to start instead of criticizing yourself, blaming yourself or others, and just spending time spinning in emotions. Creating a balance of support and challenge is not emotional. You are simply looking at where you are not feeling happy or successful and asking the question, "Do I need more support or more challenge to solve this feeling of being stuck in unhappiness or lack?" Look with compassion and wisdom at where you are and start developing concrete ideas around what you really need and in what forms that would take to meet your needs and resolve this imbalance.
Let's start by exploring what happens if we have too much support. Most of us don't have this problem, but for those of you who have great support you must treat this with incredible self-awareness. The reason? It's the story of "too much of a good thing." Often it can create a scenario of its own, where one will unconsciously drift into a space of feeling they don't need to try or if we fail at something, those people will always be there to bail us out or fix the problem for us. This mindset can be residue in the adult mind leftover from childhood, or it can come from a partner who has really been there for us. Feeling so supported, you might turn away from things that don't feel comfortable or stop really developing your own skills because in many situations the other has it handled. You may over-inflate your problems or seek more and more attention. You can even become complacent over time, slowly passing off more and more responsibility to the supportive partner. This same thing can happen if you get "too" comfortable in life. Although one can be obviously very grateful for having this gift of support, it can, at its worst, be almost seductive, leading to boredom and passivity or careless behaviors.
Now let's look at what happens when you have too much challenge. Of course most of us have heard sayings like, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, or when life gets tough, the tough get going. As cool as those sayings may sound, not all extreme challenges turn out so peachy. Too much challenge can also push one into the territory of grief, depression, wanting to give up on life, addiction or even suicide. The amount of challenge a person can handle varies greatly for each individual. That said, you will all certainly grow in some ways, either bitter or better, when you go through challenges. But how much is too much? I see people on the Internet, especially those guiding entrepreneurs, talking about making massive personal changes, "crushing it," and using extreme discipline to push oneself to their personal limits. I don't believe that strategy is for everyone, and I also believe it is difficult at best to sustain while remaining in healthy personal balance with self and other relationships. With the world needing a showing of more feminine energy, I believe many would fare better through extreme challenges with self compassion, intuition, patience and creativity--a more supportive energy.
Which brings me to the idea of balance and creating your perfect equation of support to challenge. So what would that look like and what is the power that unlocks when you create it? Ideally, you are opening yourself up with more courage because you know if you fall, not necessary when, that if you support yourself or if you choose to be supported by others you can be. It gives you the ability to make mistakes, take more risks and increase your belief in yourself. It means you push your own boundaries in a way that does not overwhelm or set off triggers, but releases a positive adrenaline of excitement of what could be. It gives you something greater to shoot for. If you lose your mojo, your support system might just offer a challenge instead of encouraging you to lick your wounds another day. I would offer that even the most successful and happy people trip up and have to regroup. I believe the resounding majority of folks would agree that a path with a few twists and turns, a few hills and valleys or maybe even a few surprises along the way is more inviting than one flat, straight, long path. Overall, it is our duty to be responsible for our own happiness and success. Ideally, to a degree you support and challenge yourself, but also have others who love you, willing to help you one way or the other when you need it.
Here's an example of how this plays out in relationships. Let's say that if you are in a relationship, the more longterm that relationship is, the more you may feel support. That is because you adapt to each other, and you both together create a vibe over time that feels comfortable, safe and has some degree of predictability. Meaning, you may know that if you run into problems that your partner will step up and be there for you. It's best of course if this goes both ways. That said, if it does not go both ways, enter challenge. Challenging relationships have an imbalance which can be about one person being supportive of their partner, while the other half does not return that courtesy. Here, resentment can develop. We could also say that when both partners are supporting each other in the ways most meaningful to the other, that this relationship has a feeling of security, which translates into a deepening where greater vulnerability is safely allowed. If neither person in the relationship is willing to offer support, then the relationship will likely be fraught with challenges and hardship, which may even lead to illness in one or the other. That said, if both partners support but never challenge each other, then neither is the liveliness and excitement of new growth and expansion enjoyed.
You get the idea. This applies to any relationship or situation. A lack of happiness or success can be a direct imbalance of either support or challenge in your life. Of course, as you grow and change, the dynamic balance of what you need in terms of support (which can be many things and appear in many forms) and challenge (infinite possibilities) will also change. But in this regard, endeavor to create a very present moment dynamic assessment of need and go with that flow, adjusting as you move forward. Your ability to move forward and leave mistakes or difficult moments of the past behind will also be vastly improved when you take action to bring awareness to your current needs for support and challenge. So you can see just how pivotal it is to understand, assess and find ways to balance support and challenge in your life. This equation can really add to the overall quality of your life. In balance, it is powerful and potentially life changing! I hope you will consider contemplating what it might do in yours.