We are conditioned to approach our lives as an individual endeavor and to try to always go it alone. But left to our own devices, we’re not very good at attaining our goals — whether it’s setting out to learn a new language, write a book or get in shape. Too often we fall short.
Yet, seeking the help and assistance of others is a sign of strength, not weakness. No person ever became truly successful all on his or her own. All had help, and lots of it. They had people by their side who encouraged them, provided advice and helped hold them accountable to their own aspirations. There’s simply no need to fly solo.
The most effective way to realize our dreams is to turn them into specific goals and identify people who can support us along the way. Even the most disciplined among us can benefit from involving our friends, family members or colleagues help us get to the finish line.
Peer support is undeniably the most important component for achieving hard-to-reach goals. We can have the intent and we can build the plan, but at the end of the day, if we’re alone, it’s a lot more likely that we’re going to give up and return to our old routines. Having the support of others who can keep us accountable is the key component that puts the match to the fuel of our intent and ignites our will to move forward.
Keep in mind these ground rules when you enlist the help of others to achieve your goals. These include:
1. Looking for support beyond your inner circle.
Asking for help can be uncomfortable. It’s always easiest to reach out to people within your circle of family and friends when building your “dream team.” If you’re part of a workout group, for example, and your goal is to compete in a triathlon, you may naturally gravitate toward the workout group members. But, it can also be worthwhile to seek out people beyond the usual suspects. In this instance, someone who practices mindfulness or meditation may be helpful in supporting the mental fortitude you need. Or, you could join forces with someone working on a graduate thesis to support each other in staying focused on your individual regimens. When people reach across boundaries, they receive different perspectives. Inviting different opinions can be a learning opportunity.
2. Sharing challenges instead of offering advice.
Providing constructive support entails less knowledge sharing and more problem solving. Sharing challenges rather than knowledge or advice encourages working out ways to better address those challenges. The best way to react to somebody’s challenge is not to say, “Have you thought about this, this or that?” It’s better to say, “I had a very similar experience and here’s what I went through.”
3. Achieving your dream through small victories.
If you’ve ever climbed a mountain, you know that in addition to the physical challenge, there’s a psychological one. Because of the tendency to fix your eyes on the peak, it’s easy to climb for several minutes and feel as if you’re making no progress. Focusing on a goal that continues to look unattainable can be discouraging. Help each other to put one foot in front of the other by establishing short-term goals, declaring victory and setting new short-term goals. In this way, you ultimately will realize success.
4. Building in accountability for progress.
Whether your support system is a mentor to mentee-type arrangement or a group that comes together to offer mutual support, give the challenge-seeker (or seekers) the impetus to act. Hold each other accountable for doing the things agreed to within a given timeframe. By immersing yourself in a culture of accountability and in a mindset for receiving help, you create a productive environment for high performance.
Have you read?
Leo Bottary is a sought-after thought leader on peer advantage, an emerging discipline dedicated to strategically engaging peers to realize your business and life goals. His new book is What Anyone Can Do: How Surrounding Yourself with the Right People Will Drive Change, Opportunity, and Personal Growth (Routledge, 2018).
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