How often have you tried to change something, only to give up a few weeks later?
I know my list of failed changes is pretty long. I often have great intentions (about getting up earlier, or eating more healthily, or taking more exercise) – but I don’t always manage to follow through.
If it’s the same for you, perhaps you’re lacking one crucial component of change: other people.
Unless you lead an incredibly hermit-like existence, you have a lot of people in your life whose support (or lack of it) can make or break your attempts at change. There’s the people who you live with or near, your workmates, your family, your friends, your community, your network of acquaintances…
As I see it, there are four key ways in which other people can help you succeed and change your life.
This is the simplest – but also one of the most important – ways in which the folks around you can help. Accountability is a powerful motivator: just think of any time when you’ve stuck with something (like your exercise plan or your work) because you knew that someone else would be checking up on you.
Being accountable to someone doesn’t require much (or anything) from them. For instance, if you’re trying to stick to your goal of writing in your journal every day, you could use a blog or Twitter to tell the world about your progress. You’re not asking anyone to invest time in supporting you – you’re just giving yourself external accountability.
Whatever you’re trying to do, there’s a fair chance that plenty of other people have done the same thing. Some of them will have spoken or written about the process: there are books, seminars, websites and more on almost any topic you can imagine.
It’s hard to implement changes if you’re not too sure how to get started. For instance, if you don’t know much about healthy eating and dieting, you might struggle to successfully lose weight. You could get advice from:
- A professional, e.g a dietician or personal trainer
- A friend who’s successfully lost weight
- A book, ebook or website
- A group leader, e.g. at Weight Watchers
Like accountability, getting advice doesn’t necessarily mean using up someone’s time: it could just be a case of reading an informative book.
Sometimes, you might have all the knowledge that you need – you’re just struggling to put it into practice. That’s when people (especially those close to you) can really help you change. Their encouragement can make a huge difference.
You’ve probably had experiences where the energy and enthusiasm of a group – perhaps at work, at a conference, in a volunteering role – made you feel more excited and motivated. And you’ve probably also had times when a partner, parent or sibling was able to help you stick with something hard, simply with a few kind words.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting some encouragement. Are you letting your loved ones help you in this way? Are you letting them know that you’d value this kind of help?
Finally, people can help you through direct support. This is the most time-consuming sort of assistance for them to give – it means actively enabling you to have the time and energy which you need to pursue your goals.
For instance, if you were trying to exercise more regularly, you might ask your friend to watch your kids while you go for a run. If you wanted to take a packed lunch to work each day, you might get your spouse to help by making your sandwiches. Of course, you might well want to reciprocate – offering practical support in return.
In my experience, friends and family are often really pleased to be able to help. (And I’m happy when I get to help them out in return.) If you’re single-mindedly trying to reach your goals all by yourself, think about how you could let other people in … it just might be what makes the next few months a success.