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 of us. Yet 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 shine some light on what I would call the "precursors" of happiness and success, we may just find 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 either our own preferences or challenges. There are myriad examples that exist for our own individual experience. I'm sure we can all agree that we all need food, water and sleep to thrive. But we can also say the same about happiness and success. The desire to learn, thrive and grow in mastery is in our DNA, and we are happiest when we are fruitfully engaged in work or relationships we love. The sticking point? Feeling a pull to improve the quality of our lives, does not necessarily mean we will automatically know how to do it. Of course you will chase your own versions of happiness and success. The important reason why balancing challenge and support is so pivotal and impacts your capacity to thrive, is they have the power to limit or increase your levels of attainment of both happiness and success. Challenge and support are the precursors that when in balance, bring far greater satisfaction and fulfillment in your life.
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 experiencing 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 frustrating 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 they fail at something, those supportive people will always be there to bail them out or fix their problems. 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 sincerely 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. It can be a slippery slope. 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 the softer, more feminine energies, I believe many would fare better through extreme challenges supported self compassion, intuition, patience and creativity--the more nurturing, supportive energies.
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 or challenge yourself or if you choose to be supported or challenged 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 maturity, responsibility, and a positive adrenaline of excitement of what could be. It gives you something greater to shoot for. If you lose your mojo for longer periods, the point may come when your support system offers you a challenge instead of encouraging you to lick your wounds yet 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 people 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 far more interesting than one flat, straight, long path. Overall, it is our duty to be responsible for our own happiness and success. To a degree you support and challenge yourself, but also have others who are willing to challenge or support you when you need it. This is how you kickstart positive momentum and unlock confidence, joy and fulfillment.
Here are a few examples of how this plays out in relationships. Let's say that if you are in a stable relationship, the more longterm that relationship, the more you may feel supported. 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. You likely believe 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 difficulties surface. These relationships have an imbalance which can be about one person being supportive of their partner, while the other half does not return that courtesy. It can also be where one partner only challenges the other without ever offering support. Either way, resentment can develop. A relationship where only challenging each other exists, the volatility will quickly burn it out. When there is no challenge or support in the relationship, it will likely be fraught with apathy and resentment. Lastly, if both partners only support but never challenge each other, the relationship will lack the sense of newness and adventure, missing out on the liveliness and excitement of new growth and expansion. When both partners are supporting each other meaningfully through a healthy balance of challenge and support, the relationship will thrive. This deepens and refreshes the connection through greater vulnerability and accountability, powerfully translating into--you guessed it--happiness and success.
You get the idea. This applies to any relationship or career 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. 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 as well as communicate your needs to those who love you. This equation can really add to the overall quality of your life. Balancing support and challenge is life changing! I hope you will consider contemplating what it might do in yours.