When we strive for change, going it alone is almost always a means to guarantee failure. All types of change are difficult, but modifying habits and behaviors can be especially difficult. Establishing a mechanism for support becomes particularly important when you want to make changes in your life.
The “lone wolf” may sound cool, but wolves live as pack animals, supporting each other in their day to day living. The lone wolf is an outcast, constantly fighting for his basic survival. As you look to make purposeful changes in your life, approaching that process with a small accountability group will greatly improve your results.
When considering who to approach to be part of your support system you need to consider who might also benefit from this new habit and/or who is just naturally part of your cheering section. By the same token, it is important to consider and avoid the folks who will sabotage your efforts. If eating healthier means less (or no) junk food in the house, your kids (or spouse) might not be supportive of your efforts. Behavioral changes are rarely isolated to just your immediate world; there are almost always ripples into the lives around you.
A Team for Success
For most major habit modifications, building a team of support to help you make changes makes the most sense. To systematize the process, enlist two to four other people who each have a specific role to play on the team. If another person will benefit from the change, enrolling them as part of your success team makes logical sense. Your success benefits them so it is easy and natural for them to encourage and support you. A person who has a similar goal or behavior modification is also a great person to partner with. Many years ago Arlis and I took a vacation that started out with a myriad of travel issues. Each time I was ready to give up, Arlis would urge me onward and when the situation reversed, I would become the cheerleader. We both really WANTED to take this vacation and ultimately our give-and-take support made it come to pass. (By the way, it was totally worth it!) A friend, family member or spouse who always has your back in everything you do is another person to engage as part of your support team. Occasionally, adding a paid professional into the team will make sense. For example, if health and fitness is your goal, hiring a personal trainer may be the additional support you need.
Give it a Name
Part of creating an accountability team is the process of clearly describing what you are trying to accomplish. The process of putting it out in the world and telling others about it somehow makes the intention “more real.” At the same time, make it clear how you would like each of your support team members to provide their support. Are they responsible of providing direct accountability by checking in on progress? Are they participating in the new behavior with you? Are they just responsible for ongoing encouragement, particularly during difficult periods? Not everyone is suited for every role and often folks want to be supportive, but they just don’t know what to do that will provide the support you need.
Strive for the Prize
Creating a reward system is a great method for developing successful change. In many cases, creating the new habit or reaching the goal is a reward in and of itself. Unfortunately, that often requires a large investment of time before you can cash in that reward. To make the most of this time, create mini-goals or milestone and celebrate and reward them along the way. It has been shown many times that reward systems have much better long-term results than punishment or avoidance methodologies. The rewards do not have to be huge, but they should be meaningful.