Humans are stubborn creatures, often thinking that sheer will and grit will get us to our goals.

And, when it comes to certain aspects of our lives, such as whether or not to work on that important project or stare at our Facebook feed, or whether you eat one cookie or an entire box of them, this is true. We are our own worst enemies, and sometimes we’re what holds us back from achieving our goals.

However, when it comes to some of the more difficult, big goals in life, it’s important to have a social support network to keep you moving even when things get tough. Having the right social support network can mean the difference between powering through those low-motivation days and giving up at the first sign of a slump.

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What Is a Social Support Network?

A social support network is a group of anyone in your life – whether in-person or far away – that helps hold you accountable for your goals and provides a boost through rough times. 

Your social support network can be made up of your closest family members, your friends and co-workers, your coaches, and even people you’ve met online but never actually seen in person. As long as someone is on your “team” and gives you the support you need to reach your goals, they can be part of your social support network.

Doing the hard things, such as losing weight or changing the foods you eat, in isolation can be incredibly difficult.

If you’re on your own, it’s really easy for that first day of soreness, that first time you think you’re “too busy,” or that first meal out with friends to derail your progress and stop your goals dead in their tracks.

Having people who know the goals you’re trying to achieve and can check up on you – and offer nudges to do the thing you know you need to do – can be crucial to sticking with a plan.

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Why an Emotional Support Network Is Important

You may think you can reach your goals without any help from your friends and family, but having a social support network can make a big difference in getting where you want to be.

Here are 4 reasons why having an emotional support network is important to your goals:

Feedback

Maybe you’re doing things the really hard way in working toward your goal, and a friend who has been there has a shortcut that may help.

Getting feedback on your process can help you reach your goals faster and easier, or at least get the validation that you’re going in the right direction.

Praise

When you’re in the thick of working toward a final goal, it can be difficult to step back and see all the progress you’ve actually made. 

Your social support network has enough distance from the day-to-day slog to put your journey into perspective, helping you celebrate those smaller wins that propel you forward.

Tough Love

Sometimes, a little tough love goes a long way.

Maybe you’ve made a commitment to getting in the gym four days per week for a few months, but you’ve let your tiredness, soreness, and busy schedule get in the way. Your social support network can be there with texts asking you why you’ve missed class, and can motivate you to get back in the gym.

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Shared Goals

Having someone with similar goals to work alongside can make the journey a lot easier. Maybe it’s a workout buddy you meet up with to practice lifts or someone who you get together with to meal prep for the week.

Finding people who have similar goals can make it much more motivating and fun to continue with the day-to-day grind necessary to meet your big goals.

Types of Social Support People

In many cases, your social support network will include a few people – sometimes several. These people may fall into one or more of the following roles:

Emotional Support

These are the people who provide love, trust, and empathy for your situation. This type of support gives you a feeling of emotional belonging and safety.

Your emotional support person may, if you have a tough workout, be the one you look to to commiserate about the rough experience.

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Instrumental Support

These people are the ones that provide real, tangible support when getting you to your goal. Often, they’re giving up something of themselves, sometimes their time, money, or resources, to help you on your path.

Your instrumental support person may give up a weekend to help you meal plan and prep, or spend some extra time working on that lift you just can’t master.

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Informational Support

This type of support person gives you suggestions, information, or advice to help you with your goal. Your informational support people may be friends or family members, or even professionals you get help from such as nutritionists, trainers, and therapists.

Your informational support person could be the one who calculates your macros, helps you figure out how to get over your hang-ups with emotional eating, or coaches you in class.

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Appraisal Support

Appraisal support is similar to informational support, but the information provided is directly related to information you need to improve. In most cases, this type of support includes constructive criticism or even a little “tough love.”

This person could be the person who tells you to get your butt to the gym when you’ve missed a few days, or who looks at your meal plan and makes suggestions on ways you can improve it for better performance.

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How to Find Your Emotional Support Network

For most people, their emotional support network will come largely from people who already are in their lives. These can be partners, family members, close friends, coworkers, gym buddies, or professionals they see regularly.

However, not everyone in your life is destined to be part of your emotional support network.

The first step toward finding your emotional support network is to determine your goals. Do you want to lose weight? Hit a big PR? Prepare for a competition? Or maybe get a new job?

Make this goal known to the people in your life you can see as part of your emotional support network. The feedback you get from making this goal known will give you an idea of who will be with you on your journey and who you may not be able to count on to be part of your group. 

From there, figure out if you need to find anyone to fill in some crucial roles in your support network. 

If you’re looking to overhaul your diet, for example, you may need to find someone with experience in meal planning, macro calculation, or nutrition. To get ready to run a marathon, you may need to add a running coach or friend who runs distances to your team.

Anyone who doesn’t support your goal doesn’t need to be part of your social support network. You want people who believe you can achieve your goals and will help you get to where you need to be.

Find Your Social Support Network & Reach Your Goals!

Large or small, finding the right emotional support network for your needs is key to helping you achieve all your health, fitness, and life goals. Who do you want in your social support network?
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