Do you know one thing that completely amazed me when I was in college? They don’t take attendance in all classes. Seriously – it’s OPTIONAL to go. (I know this is supposed to teach adults how to prepare for the real world, but optional classes in college means we don’t go FYI). No one was making me go and I wasn’t being punished if I didn’t show up. It was MY reponsibility to go, and if I felt I could get the information on my own, then I wasn’t required to be there. I just had to pass the tests when they were given. Because of this, I can count on one hand the number of times I got up for my 8:00am physics class my senior year. Every single time that alarm went off I convinced myself I could just pass on my own and I didn’t need to be there. I mean, who needs physics, anyway?! (Which is why I can’t explain the Law of Gravity to this day). You know what? I did pass, but it wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t easy and I sure as heck didn’t retain any information. How much better would I have done if there was something or someone keeping me accountable and making me come to class and study?
We like to think of ourselves as strong and independent and able to stay accountable on our own. While that may be the case, we still tend to let ourselves cheat a little here and there. Even the strongest among us let themselves off the hook and don’t always push themselves as hard as possible. We are now four weeks into the new year, and it’s time to ask “am I sticking to any of the resolutions I made”? If the answer is “no”, “maybe”, or “I’ll get back to you”, ask yourself something else – did you tell anyone about your goals?
Over and over again, research shows that setting and working towards goals with other people is more effective than doing it on your own. This does not have to mean sitting in a circle with strangers while holding hands and telling your life story. It can mean telling your spouse and kids that you would like the family to eat vegetarian one night a week. Or telling your boss you would like to be a team leader in six months. Or signing up and paying for a triathalon in the fall. In each of these cases, you have put yourself out there and announced your intentions to the world. You have made your goals concrete and a little more real.
There are many reasons that reaching goals can be easier once you have spoken them out loud to a person or a group.
Understanding. You will find out that you aren’t the only one struggling to avoid sugar or be more patient with your parents or kids. Other people have the same obstacles as you, and it’s ok to laugh about them, then work towards solutions. Maybe they will have ideas and tricks you’ve never thought of!
Accountability. If you post on Facebook you are doing a cleanse, training for a marathon or learning how to play guitar, everyone will comment about it or ask you about it and NO ONE FORGETS (which is a good or bad thing, depending on how you look at it.) I don’t recommend always using social media to declare your goals, but announcing to someone in your life that you are doing something will guarantee that you are kept accountable.
Encouragement. If you slip up along your way to your goals, people will understand and say “I’ve been there”. They will gently encourage and help you get back on track. They can also brainstorm with you when you think maybe you want to change a goal or work towards something a little different. Your friends and family know you best, and they can have give some great advice and encouragement. (I know that some people have family members or friends that aren’t generally supportive. If this is the case for you, chose to open your heart and be vulnerable with people you know will come to you from a place of love and not a place of judgment.)
Competition. There is a little healthy competition in all of us! This is why groups such as CrossFit and OrangeTheory are so successful. They push people to perform their best in a healthy, encouraging and competitive environment. We WANT to be the one in a group to lose the most, feel the best, get the highest grade and look the slimmest. Find something that stokes your healthy competitive fire and use it to your advantage.
Fun. One of my goals this year is to join a service organization. I would be ok doing projects on my own, but how much better would it be to find an awesome group that serves together?! I would be much more likely to attend weekend Habitat for Humanity events if I knew I’d be laughing all day. Find friends and family members who also wantto lose weight, start Pilates, learn how to sew or walk a 10K. Laugh and feel good about yourself and the fact you are working towards your goals.
Words have Power. It is a proven fact that goals are more likely to be reached if they are written down rather than just thought of in the mind. When you actually read your goals out loud after writing them down, their power increases exponentially. Do not doubt the power your words have in this world. Whether you speak negatively or positively, the world will listen to your intentions. Don’t just say “I want to run a marathon this year.” Say “I am going to run a marathon this year.” “I am going to spend more time with my kids.” “I am going to love myself more.” Or better yet, “I CAN’T WAIT to run a marathon…spend more time with my kids…love myself more.” Say it and believe it.
Don’t feel like you have to do everything on your own. There are no medals handed out for those who ask for the least amount of help in life. If you like to work alone and aren’t ready to join a group, that’s ok! Just pick one trusted person in your life and tell them your goals for the year. Ask them to support you and help keep you accountable. Whether you rely on one or ten people, just remember that verbalizing your goals to them can make all the difference.