“I Get by With a Little Help From My Friends…”: The Importance of Support to Achieve Goals

As we move into autumn, with shorter days and more time indoors, I’ve been feeling at a bit out of sorts. I typically feel a bit of sadness and loss with summer over, but this year we’re still in the middle of a global pandemic, a climate crisis, elections upon us… the list feels overwhelming. I’ve been thinking about how I can ground myself with some positive habits, activities, and connections and not just sit on the couch with a remote to numb out, preparing to hibernate under a blanket until next spring.

I am curious how I might be able to find some silver linings in these Covid times, with so many things closed down and not possible.  I am generally curious and motivated,  but even I’m having a harder time generating energy for action. I know myself well enough to recognize that some level of purpose and engagement is going to help me with my physical, emotional and mental well-being as we move into the dark months. And I can’t do it alone. And so, I’m taking my own advice and having conversations with people to partner with me on some mutual goals to create a little more energy and structure, and to have more enjoyment along the way.

The research is clear, we are more likely to stick with a goal if we are part of a formal group or partnership. And yet, in Covid times, it’s easy to say, “But I don’t have those supports any more– my yoga studio is closed, the gym doesn’t feel safe for me, there’s no in-person cooking class, I lost my walking partner because I’m working from home, I can’t get on a plane for the big adventure so what’s the point training…” I get it, I’ve said these things to myself, too- they may be the first thought, but let’s not have them be the last thought. In martial arts they talk about moving to where you can, not where you can’t. Having support is like tapping into a bigger pool of willpower. Here are a few Covid-specific ideas:

In my own life, I used to go to the library or café to do work that I found difficult to start or focus on (like writing this newsletter!). With that not in the picture for me, I found Focusmate.  It’s a virtual coworking site where you get partnered with a person somewhere in the world for a set time, you share your goal with them, keep your video on and get to work. At the end of the session you share with each other what you accomplished, and wish them well. It’s been an unexpected support for me, and even though I don’t know them, it keeps me focused. (I’m not getting paid to mention them).

A friend told me how she’s supporting her mother-in-law who wants to cook healthier meals. They agreed to simply send a picture of their dinners four days a week. Another friend told me how she was lamenting the fact that her brother in Canada couldn’t meet her in the United States for their annual bike ride. Not to be deterred, they created a simultaneous ride where they each planned a route in their area  They got on the phone before they started to say hello and talk about their ride, took a midpoint break and checked in, showing on the phone where they were, and then ended their day with a final video chat and a beer together. Brilliant!

And then, of course, you can always have a virtual walking buddy where you get on the phone and chat while simultaneously going on a walk. What I love is that this way I get to “walk” with friends even if they’re far away. As a result I’ve deepened relationships that I wouldn’t have otherwise.

In addition, I have a friend with whom I’m exploring the topic of race and white supremacy, and I joined an online book study as a way to support my spirituality.

A few ideas on having an accountability partner:

  • Pick a partner who will be a good fit for the goal.
  • Discuss what support looks like for each of you. This could be regular conversations, daily texts that say “Done!”, photos, sharing work in progress etc.
  • Set the schedule in advance so you don’t have to tackle the scheduling hassle as often.  For example, you can set up four different walks over multiple weeks with the same person. Get it on the calendar and live into it.
  • Be open with your accountability partner, talk about what’s working and what isn’t, and brainstorm new approaches.  If your goal is to read four hours of fiction for fun each weekend, and you’re not getting to it, can you schedule it as a fixed time and tell your family?  Or can you schedule two two-hour blocks mid-week? If that turns out to be unrealistic, what about two hours a week?
  • Get specific.  Sharing what, and when, you will do something doubles your chance of success.
  • Celebrate successes together! Plan how you’ll share the completion of goals, or pick a milestone if it’s an ongoing goal, such as celebrating after six weeks of walking five days a week for thirty minutes or more.

What’s been working for you? I’d love to hear your experience. And, if you’re looking for something a little more in depth, my work as a leadership coach provides support to individuals and organizations that want to fulfill on their growth and development. With Covid, leaders and teams are under enormous pressure right now. Please let me know if you’d like to have a conversation about executive coachingteam development orleadership training. For businesses in Vermont, grant money is available for coaching and training. In addition, I am continuing my commitment to a quarterly book study on the topic of race and privilege– please join me!

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