I’m on vacation this week, and we have some old friends and their family staying with us. Last night we got to talking about therapy (like psychotherapy) and how valuable it has been for me over the past few years.
Maybe four years ago I started seeing a therapist on a bi-weekly basis. There were a few specific things that were stressing me, and also a more generalized sense of anxiety that I wanted to work on. And then, over the next few years a few specific difficult situations came up that we worked through. My guy comes from a Zen / mindfulness background, which really works well for me.
When I think about what I’ve been working on and dealing with over the last few years, I can point to this first step of finding a therapist (I refer to him my “shrink”) as the single most important thing I’ve done. It’s really amazing how much just having someone there to help makes a difference — whether there’s something specific going on, or nothing at all — having someone there to help just unlocks a lot of stuff.
At around the same time, I got a new primary care doctor, and also a new accountant. Both of whom are amazing and have helped get things in better order, in terms of health and finances.
I remember thinking, back then, “wow, it’s OK to get help with things”. That may be so obvious to people, but for some reason it really hit me as profound. For the first time, I felt like I had a great team backing me up, helping me improve on all the things I wanted to improve on.
There is a lot of stigma around getting help, in particular around getting psychological help. Like, what’s wrong with me that I need this, or why can’t I just deal with this on my own, or with my friends, or with diet and exercise. It took me a while to take the plunge and get help for the things I needed help with, and I got stuck on all of those questions before I did.
But I can say without hesitation that getting actual dedicated help was the best thing I’ve ever done, and it has really unlocked a whole lot for me. And if you think about it, it would be ridiculous to expect anyone who wants to excel at anything to do it all alone — the Patriots don’t coach themselves, and Roger Federer doesn’t go it alone either. In those cases, it’s so obvious that help is good and necessary, and that’s true for your mind, your health, your finances, etc.
At USV, many if not most of our CEOs have an executive coach, and I can’t recommend it more. A good executive coach can play the role of therapist in a lot of ways, but a dedicated, non-work therapist is a great thing too.
If it’s available, and if you can find it, I’d encourage anyone out there dealing with anything hard to get help from someone good.