Here’s the story we tell ourselves about what leveling up looks like: To advance, we have to improve. To get better, we must be better.
On the path to improvement, so often we look at what else we can accomplish without thinking about who can help us accomplish it. We think about growing our knowledge and developing our skills. We update our resumes. We read Harvard Business Review. Maybe we sign up for a class or pursue a new certification. These steps are all important but are all solo acts involving more of our limited time and attention. Sometimes we need to look at our team for support, even if we are the only one on the court.
Depending on how you want to improve, you may already have the skills and the drive, but you might need a better support system. There are some practical lessons we all need to learn about self-care, emotional support systems, and asking for help (delegating if that is easier to stomach). That might be to be a working mother and influencing her life for the better.
It was a powerful reminder that we all need a support system. And as importantly, a nod to the fact that the people you admire, the people you might aspire to be one day probably aren’t finding their success alone. They’re reaching new heights, because they’ve created a life and a support system that enables them to feel successful and ultimately powers them forward.
For some people, this support system might be a neighbor, a trainer, or a mentor. In fact, it could be all three. As a working mother, the two incredibly influential people in getting me to the next level are my therapist and my housekeeper. I can’t be at my best without the value they bring to my life, and I know that when they help me keep things in order—for my mental health and, well, my clean house—I feel recharged and ready to tackle projects that will help me reach my next career goals.
This is the secret to success more people should be talking about. Sometimes, your support system is the difference between advancing and standing still. You must have this bouquet of support people to keep you well rounded, and you need to dispense with the idea that asking for help is failing. Inviting people into your life to lend support is not a weakness. It’s your strength.
Who’s on your bench when it comes to empowering you? What are the tasks or responsibilities that live rent-free in your head and how are you leveraging the resources available to you to get them done? What can you outsource to make more space in your day for the things that will help you achieve your professional or personal goals?
The next time you’re feeling like you need to level up, ask yourself these questions and write down the folks that support you. Are they providing the support that you need? Who tells you the truth (even when you don’t want to hear it)? Who is missing? Maybe you need to be more well-rounded, finding new or diverse perspectives to keep you level-headed. Or maybe your support system favors more professional connections than social ones. Maybe you don’t have anyone in your community to help you keep self-care top of mind. Maybe you just need someone on your roster that will come over and help you organize your pantry.
Whatever it is that will keep you from getting bogged down and free you up to do great things, don’t be afraid to find it. Everyone needs a community of helpers and friends in their life to empower them to be successful.
If you don’t have them, you need to get them. And if you do have them, you need to talk more about them. If you are a leader—someone other people look up to in any role—talk more about the people that keep you on track. We need more Amy Poehlers in the world, acknowledging and spotlighting the support systems that are keeping them whole and pushing them forward
An incredible mentor of mine once told me you can be accountable for more, but you don’t have to be responsible more. I was 38 years old when I heard that and have spent every day since thinking about it and putting that idea into practice.
Some leaders talk about balance like it’s a binary thing “You can have it all, just not all at the same time.” There are not enough hours in the day to get it all done, by yourself. There just aren’t. And that’s okay if you’re willing to acknowledge it, take the reins, and find some help. We need to give more people permission to have it all without doing it all.
The next time you think the only way to move up is to do more, make sure you are not the only one doing more. Look around your house and your headspace. Before you start getting down on what you have or haven’t accomplished, get interested in what you can do to simplify, organize and delegate tasks in your control. How much further could you go in your career if you outsourced some responsibilities?
From my experience, there are only so many certifications in the world that will turn people’s heads. But when you get down to the business of managing your life, there are endless possibilities for feeling and then being more successful if you’re willing to focus on not just what you can learn but what you can optimize. That kind of self-discovery and peace will stay with you long after your next promotion.