How friends can increase your likelihood of achieving your goals by 95%

Have you ever made a commitment to yourself to get in shape? I mean a real, rock solid promise that this time you were absolutely going to do it? And then…

We’ve all done it. We’ve all made a commitment to ourselves that, this time, we’re definitely going to achieve our goals. And then over the following days, weeks and months we repeatedly fail to follow through. We fail on our commitment to ourselves, and we let ourselves down.

But that’s exactly the problem. When we fail, we only let ourselves down. We’re not letting anyone else down.

When we let ourselves down, we’re too nice to ourselves. We accept the excuses that we say to ourselves. We tell ourselves “I would go to the gym but I didn’t sleep well” to which we respond “Aw, you poor dear. Get some rest. Never mind, you can always go tomorrow”. We’re too nice to ourselves and we accept our own excuses. We need someone else to get involved. Someone to say “That doesn't matter. Come on, let's do it together now."

That’s where Accountability Partners come in. An Accountability Partner is someone who you’ll disappoint if you don’t do what you said you would. We are far more likely to actually do the things we have committed to when we have an accountability partner. And when you’re accountable to your partner, your partner is accountable to you.

A study by the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) on accountability found that you have a 65% of completing a goal if you commit to someone. And if you have a specific accountability partner that you’ve committed to, you increase your likelihood of success by up to 95%.

At one point in University, I struggled to lose the extra weight that I was carrying. It was a miserable winter and I just couldn’t motivate myself to exercise. I was lucky to get myself to the gym even once a week. And when I did get there, I couldn’t get myself to do anything more than a feeble effort.

But then a friend asked me if I’d be her gym buddy. I agreed. I promised that I would workout with her early in the morning, every morning, before she headed into work. She’d drive to my house every morning to pick me up for the gym. Knowing that she was getting up early, driving to my house and would be waiting for me, motivated me to go. I didn’t go once in a while. I didn’t go most days. I went every day.

An Accountability Partner is a powerful motivator for two reasons. First, they’re someone who can kick us in the butt when we come up with excuses for why we don’t want to exercise. Second, we have a natural disinclination to let an accountability partner down. Let me explain.

First, when we empower our accountability partner to refuse excuses, we enable them to push us when our own motivation and willpower fail. Back in University, I phoned my friend a couple of mornings trying to beg off, saying I had a cold or was hungover, but she just said, “toughen up, I’ll be at your door in 30 minutes”. Her hard words pushed me to get the job done.

Second, we have evolved to have a strong innate inclination to avoid breaking our commitments to others. Humans evolved as social animals. In nature, individual humans are week and make easy prey. But groups of humans are strong and thrive. Thousands of years ago, exclusion from a group made life much more difficult and severely reduced the likelihood of survival. Our ancestors avoided exclusion through developing mutually beneficial social mechanisms.

One social mechanism that our ancestors developed was an inclination to keep the commitments they made. If a person committed to take their turn standing guard against wild animals while the others slept, the rest of the tribe needed to know that she was going to keep that commitment. People who did not keep their commitments to the tribe were punished. And those who proved to be chronically unreliable were exiled.

Although we live in a very different world, we still have that same social mechanism. We have an intrinsic inclination to keep our commitments to maintain our social bonds. We can break a commitment to ourselves quite easily, but we’re much less inclined to break commitments we make to others.

Whether you’re keeping to a diet, hitting the gym or simply going for walks, getting an accountability partner will greatly increase your likelihood of success.

So, who is going to be your accountability partner? Give them a call right now, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you both progress towards your goals!

Meet them for a walk instead of a coffee, or do both! 


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