Reality Check: To Rely and to Be Reliable

There’s a particular satisfaction for me when someone I know has made progress in their life. It’s especially gratifying if I can perceive that I had contributed to that progress, even in a tiny way.

Often, the achievements are relatively small; a student passed a test or an employee got recognition at work. But there are also the bigger deals—a new job, a promotion, a promising turnaround in a difficult relationship.

No matter the specific accomplishment, it’s a victory when we make progress in the direction we want; when we move closer to the life that we want to live.

Choice Theory refers to the “quality world;” simply put, it’s a mental photo album of what we want. In my personal “what-I-want-world” is a picture of the satisfaction of having had a hand in someone’s success.

I know that I’m not alone in getting personal satisfaction when I see others make progress.

Another quality world picture that I have is the satisfying belief that there are people who can rely on me. Likewise, I have people in my life that I can rely on.

That specific satisfaction is so well articulated by Dr. Joel Wade in “Mastering Happiness.” He says, “It is one of the great joys in life–a deep, rich, meaty joy-to feel that you can, without question, rely on somebody to see you through. It is one of the solid pillars of genuine, earned self-esteem and resilience to know that you are a person who will do this for others as well.”

It is, indeed, a wonderful thing to know there’s someone in your life that you can rely on, who is in your corner, unconditionally. Someone who cares, specifically, about you.

For many, parents serve as this valuable source of unconditional reliability. For others, it’s a friend who sticks with you through thick and thin.

Does this mean that your “reliable person” always agrees with you? That they share your outlook about everything? Or that they won’t call you out when you do something stupid, unkind, or ridiculous? (as if you would.)


While you may not always agree, a person you can rely on probably shares at least some of your values. They definitely care about your well-being. They want you to have a satisfying life, whatever that may look like. And they will be a practical ally—there for you—when the going gets tough.

As I write this, I can almost feel some of you saying, “That’s fine for her. But I don’t have a person like that in my life. I wish I did.”

What can you do?

My first suggestion is to look carefully at the relationships that you do have. See if it’s really true that this is lacking. We can be pretty blasé about what we have until we lose it. My hope is that you’ll recognize and appreciate that you do have people in your life that you can rely on.

My second suggestion is be a reliable person for others. Be a person who cares enough about someone else to see them through their difficulties, whether sadness, illness, joy, or confusion. As you become more reliable, it may be easier for someone to be that for you.

When we perceive that being helpful is a useful life mission, we find lots of ways to act that way. Do you think that adds to our own happiness?

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