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The Accountability Partner
In the same way that we respond well to an immediate reward when performing an action we find satisfying, we can inversely limit our poor habits by introducing some immediate consequence or pain.
Pain is an effective teacher and makes us learn quicker.
It’s important to note though that the pain or consequence of the unwanted behaviour must outweigh the cost of the action. The more immediate, tangible and concrete the punishment, the more likely it is to influence your future behaviour. A tradesman will do a good job due to the threat of a bad review and customers will pay their bills on time in light of a late payment fee.
When it comes to improving your health the cost of laziness or consuming poor food must be greater than the cost of exercise or a healthy diet.
We can do this in several ways, the first being a habit contract. This is easily observed through various forms of legislation such as seat belt laws and banning smoking indoors where an immediate consequence is very tangible.
The pain involved in both these situations ranges from putting loved ones at risk to a financial penalty and feeling socially unacceptable. In a nutshell our government holds us accountable, and we act accordingly because as humans we go along with the crowd and don’t want to be punished.
We can use this part of our nature to our advantage by forming an alliance with an accountability partner. This could be a spouse, a friend or colleague who you become answerable to in some form. The best relationships will involve both partners trying to achieve roughly the same outcomes such as increasing activity or eating healthily.
At Healthy Options we use this to our advantage by linking up spouses, friends, and colleagues as we know their chances of success are significantly boosted. Simply knowing that someone else is watching is a powerful motivator and if we fail to uphold our part of the agreement, we fear what others will think of us. Just like not ensuring everyone in the car is wearing their seatbelt.
Also remember that the pain must outweigh the lack of action, so what about chatting to your accountability partner about what would make you cement a new behaviour because of the consequences.
Perhaps a financial penalty such as paying for your partners membership should you miss so many planned sessions? Perhaps you agree to clean their oven, cut their grass or if they support a rival team you have to wear their strip in public for a day. Now there’s a way to make sure you don’t miss the next gym session!
For the full message go to the free resource section on the lornhealthyoptions.co.uk website.
Rob Graham, Lead Exercise Professional, Healthy Options.