Growing up to the tune of rom-coms and Jane Austen prose can make it feel like the romantic relationships we form in our twenties and thirties are the most important things in our life.
But a recent study out of the University of Buffalo tells us that this way of thinking is a little too singular.
The study revealed that having high-quality non-romantic, as well as romantic, relationships is crucial for navigating adulthood. Researcher Ashley Barr of the school's sociology department said, "The majority of our respondents were not married, but these relationships are still impactful to health, for better or for worse." She continued, "Health benefits begin to accrue relatively quickly with high-quality relationships and supportive contexts."
We tend to prioritize marriage and romantic partnerships, especially as we enter adulthood, but it's true that high-functioning adults have a well-rounded social strata. Businessman turned life strategist Jim Rohn famously said, "You're the average of the five people you spend most of your time with." Those people have the power to bolster you or hold you down.
So take this time to consider your circle. Is there room for another key player as you navigate the path toward a successful life (no matter what that means for you)? Here are five types of people you should seek out and hold tight.
01. The Mentor
You knew this one was coming, but truly, a good mentor should be coveted. Whether it's a college professor, a family friend, or a colleague who's a few steps ahead of you, this person is crucial to your success. The key to this dynamic is to define it. When you find someone you feel could be this person in your life, ask them—point blank—if they will be your mentor. Establishing that relationship validates them as a teacher and allows you to seek their council without fear of being bothersome. You will both feel ingratiated to one another, and the guidance can prosper.
Another key to this relationship: seek a mentor without a ton of other mentees. A Northwestern University study of effective mentor relationships showed that when a mentor had less than the average number of advisees (which was ten), the quality of the relationships was higher.
02. The Protégé
Some people look at mentors and think, "Why are they offering all this free advice? What are they getting out of it?" Enter: the protégé. Deemed "the protégé effect," it's the understanding that when asked to teach others, people work harder to understand and learn things themselves. This is a basic but indelible reason for why you need an underling.
Nothing gives worth to your life like having another desire to follow your lead. At the same time this person serves as a sort of checks and balances system for you. By giving of yourself to them, you see rewards in their flourishing. The protégé wins because he or she gets guidance. The mentor wins because he or she has someone to keep her grounded, someone who's always watching.
03. The Confidant
Trust is hard to come by these days. Even more illusive is privacy. When you find someone with whom real candor and vulnerability can be respected, don't let them go. Sometimes this person reveals herself in your sister or best friend; but other times it's not so obvious.
Harvard sociology researcher Mario Luis Small who has extensively studied social networks says the common thought that our confidants are our nearest and dearest is actually a bit misguided. Answers from two thousand adults studied by Small revealed that "45 percent of confidants were people whom the respondents did not consider personally important."
According to Small, "A confidant might well be a barber or beauty salon employee, a bartender, a therapist (either physical or psychological), or a trainer at the gym; they are priests, rabbis, doctors, and financial advisers." Small said, “In fact, we often avoid using people who are close to us as confidants exactly because they are important to us.” We don't want to trouble them or reveal to them some of our moral dilemmas for fear of judgment. A confidant doesn't always have to be someone you devote a ton of your time to, it just has to be someone you're comfortable with and can trust.
04. The Motivator
We all know that one person who seems fearless. The secret is—they aren't fearless (no one is), but they manage to put their insecurities aside to pursue what they want. Maybe this person simply coaxes you out of your comfort zone every now and again. Maybe he or she impresses you so much with his or her unbridled enthusiasm that you feel empowered. You need someone who makes you want to push your limits a little bit further because that's how you learn about yourself. Don't be envious of this person, be inspired by them.
If you really want to take advantage of the motivator in your life, ask them to be your accountability partner of sorts. Tell them about a goal you have, make a plan of action together, and ask them to help keep you on track. As Forbes encourages us, find someone to "light a fire under you."
05. The Optimist
Optimism is a quality that perhaps already exists among your social sphere, but especially for those who tend to worry or have a mindset for worst case scenarios, a full-fledged optimist is a much-needed influence in your life. We all have bad days, and when they come, we need to know there's someone there to help us see the good. This person will challenge you, surprise you, and hopefully, rub off on you. Either way, don't mock them for being a "Suzy Sunshine," thank them for keeping your negativity tank just a bit lower than it could be.
UCLA thinks optimism is so much a key to success that they created an entire website to showcase their alumni who've proven it to be true. As they put it: "...every 'no way' and 'can't be done' is our opportunity to push forward, together." Find someone to push you forward, and in the meantime, check out these inspiring stories.
Are you one of these people to someone in your life? If so, make sure you’re being the best supporter you can be for them. And make sure that you’re always strengthening your own core social circle with people who want success for you and are willing to help you get it.
Photo Credit: Janis RoseAnne