Since January, The Self-Care Series has been offering you simple suggestions for living a healthier, more vibrant life. Habits such as eating dinner early and light, going to bed early, starting the day right, and taking time to sit in silence are simple habits. But even simple habits can fall away quickly if you don’t have strategies in place to make your self-care habits stick.
One of the most important strategies for successfully changing your habits is to enlist the support of others. Here are three truths about the power of social connections that will help you create new habits and meet your self-care goals.
TRUTH #1. Your potential to change is limited when you go it alone. Being part of a group that supports your growth will help you meet your goals. Old patterns and outdated beliefs go unchecked when you have no one to help you see them. You WILL see them when you share your challenges with others and when you see your peers work through their own challenges and setbacks. The transformation of others will inspire you to do your own work more faithfully so you too can experience deep transformation. The excitement and encouragement you will receive when you share your wins boosts your confidence and commitment.
TRUTH #2. Without accountability, most people will let themselves off the hook. When you are part of a group you will be held accountable. You will be more likely to follow through with your commitment to change, knowing your group members are expecting you to do so. Behavioral scientists explain that making a public commitment (i.e. telling your friends about your goals) counteracts your tendency to let yourself off the hook, because you naturally want to save face with your peers. The power of accountability in a dynamic group will help you make your habit change stick.
TRUTH #3. Group support – not willpower – will help you meet your goals. Willpower is not enough to change your habits. According to Benjamin Hardy, author of Willpower Doesn’t Work, “…willpower is like a muscle. It’s a finite resource that depletes with use. As a result, by the end of your strenuous days, your willpower muscles are exhausted.” To compensate, we need something else to kick in when the willpower runs out. Being part of a group is proven to help you stick to your commitments and reach your goals (read this, this, and this for details on the studies that back this up).
Tapping Into Peer Power
The power of group support is available to anyone. Start looking for ways to enlist the support of others, and you can find co-workers, friends, coaches, and teachers who will help you reach your goals.
This could look like:
- Starting up a “lunch club” at work to motivate you to take a real break each day to eat lunch and take a rest from work tasks.
- Meeting with a coach or counselor provided by the employee assistance program (EAP) sponsored by your employer.
- Committing to meet your friend at the gym or yoga class every week.
- Joining a basketball or kickball team that has regular practices and games.
- Setting goals with your spouse or other family members and holding each other accountable to your outcomes.
Each of these examples have important elements of accountability – a clear commitment to regular meetings/practices that move you toward a specific goal. Your partners and peers will expect you to show up and fulfill on your commitment. That’s positive peer pressure working in your favor.
I’ve met weekly with an accountability partner for the past two years. We keep each other on track with our self-care, career, and other life goals. This has been (and continues to be) a life-changing experience that proves how powerful peer support can be.
What group or person can you enlist to help you meet your goals?
About the Author
Kirstin Pinit teaches the art of self-care through creative, engaging, and practical habit-change programs. She is a certified coach and yoga teacher and consults with cities, communities, companies, and groups on behavior-change programs and strategies. Learn more about her work at www.kirstinpinit.com.