Creating and keeping new habits – top tip “tell someone…..”

In a recent blog  “Woo woo and trainers optional, but looking after your wellbeing no longer is”, I included a guide on wellbeing ideas to try whilst working from home. This also had some hints and tips on how to give one or two of them a go.

One of the tips was to “make yourself accountable to someone”, as in tell someone you are going to do something, have a go at something etc. Often termed an accountability partner, this chosen person can then support you to keep your commitment, achieve your new habit, goal or whatever it is you have set out to do.

It’s so simple and yet so powerful and effective, and you may find that you have used this approach without even realising it.  Looking back, I can certainly think of times where I have. 

In my early 20’s (a lifetime ago), I decided I wanted to go and live in Australia. This felt very scary for someone who had never left the UK, let alone been on an aeroplane. But, my desire to go to Australia was so great that I started to tell a few people and, that really helped to make it happen. On another occasion, I decided to return to full-time education, leaving the world of gainful employment to fix a serious chip on my shoulder to prove to myself that I could study and learn, (some seriously rotten teaching had firmly embed that chip). My brain went into meltdown and was full of “I can’t, I will fail, everyone will laugh at me,” through to “I must be mad”!  Again, I clearly remember telling a few people. No one laughed they cheered me on and again the simple act of telling the right people that I was going to do something – made it happen! Almost magic!

Here we are in COVID times and lockdown world and I find myself in the middle of a fantastic accountability scenario. I am a Run Maker (top job title btw) for an amazing community called This Mum Runs, which means I get to work with groups of ladies who are complete running beginners or maybe just haven’t run for a long time. I meet them on a Tuesday evening and coach them through an eight-week program which enables them to run for 30 or 60 minutes non-stop at the end. It’s fantastic and I love working with these groups.  

Rewind to early March 2020, when I had just started working with a new group, week two done, and then, of course, we had to stop as we went head first into lockdown.  But – the group decided they didn’t want to leave it there, even though they hardly knew each other, they remained in touch via WhatsApp, encouraging each other to run. One group member Jen said: “why don’t we see if we can run a marathon by adding up our individual runs and miles?”. “That’s a great idea,” we all said!!

Here we are ten weeks later and the group are approaching 2000 miles which is nearly 70 marathons. London, Paris, Berlin, New York, Milton Keynes, Edinburgh – tick, tick, tick they have worked their way through them and many others. Every night the team message me the miles they have run or walked, (and in some instances “turbo biked”). I add them up and send back the days summary. Pleased with themselves, they go to bed and sleep, and then repeat the next day, Run/Walk, Eat, Sleep repeat….. or something like that.

The point is, they are not experienced runners or super fit women, they are busy ladies and like everyone else in lockdown are juggling – families, homeschooling, working, supporting others and a ton of stuff – but have found a way to motivate and support each other – to get out of the house and put one foot in front of the other and keep moving even if it’s just for a mile.

They are accountability partners to each other, and to a certain extent me. Without a shadow of a doubt, as result, they have run and moved further than they would have done during the lockdown, and a wapping bonus are one hell of a lot fitter and as a result, supporting their physical and mental wellbeing.

And my final, but very lovely example of how brilliant it is to tell somebody what you are going to do and then do it, is the work I am doing with the amazing Jane Galloway at Quiet The Hive.  Jane is a fabulous accountability partner, I am following her warm, gentle but inspiring Compass programme, part of which is “three things Sunday”. Every Sunday via her Insta feed I share three things with her that I am committing to doing the following week. She nudges and encourages me to crack on with them and also shares her own three things. Its all very motivating and means I get on with things that I might otherwise procrastinate over – like writing this blog! Thanks Jane 🙂

Here are my top tips on how to make accountability work

  1. Do not choose and commit to something to do under the influence of alcohol. Trust me, those “beer or wine goggle” eyes do not make for reality, and may mean the thing you are committing to is just too unrealistic.
  2. Live with whatever you are deciding to do for a while, don’t share it, keep it all to yourself, a delicious secret. Let it grow and become real in your mind. And then share it with people you feel comfortable with and you know will be just great at helping keep you on track
  3. Chose the right person to tell and/or be your accountability partner, and even consider being an accountability partner right back.  That’s like a double whammy of inspiration and loveliness.
  4. Believe it works – because it does!