Occasionally, I post an interesting before-and-after story submitted by a reader, about how he or she successfully changed a habit. I love to hear people’s stories about habit change. We can all learn from each other. If you’d like to share your story, contact me here.
This week’s story comes from someone who wants to remain anonymous:
“Between my and my husband’s full-time jobs, work travel, and 2 young kids, I’ve often felt I had very limited time to exercise in the last few years. My favorite form of exercise is to run or hike outdoors with a good friend. I happily trained for and ran several marathons with friends before having kids. For the longest time I thought the ‘friend’ part of the equation was because I’m a fairly sociable person and often have to work alone.
“It’s nice to combine chatting and exercise. Also, meeting a friend is often the key to getting me out the door. If I don’t have a plan to meet someone, I tend to prioritize something else (work or family) even if there is no deadline for that other thing. Until reading your Four Tendencies framework and realizing I was an Obliger, I really didn’t know why.
“I began to have concerns in the past year or 2 when my previous exercise partners moved away or changed schedules, and I could not seem to make myself exercise consistently alone. I tried signing up for gym classes, large group training programs, or running events like 10Ks, but it didn’t work — I would find excuses not to go if something else seemed more pressing. Having invested the money was not a huge motivating factor for me (which bothered me, but not enough to drive a change). I tried recruiting other friends as exercise buddies, but if their busy schedules interfered then I would just drop my plan, too. I was feeling terrible that I seemed so dependent on friends to do something I know I like doing & that is good for me- exercise!
“FINALLY I read the Four Tendencies framework and the light-bulb went off. As an Obliger I had to understand my motivations better and create solid external accountability for exercise! And it had to be really consistent and difficult to rearrange! I realized it would be nice if my new exercise plan could involve friends, but it didn’t have to. I do enjoy running and hiking alone once I get going. And in the past I had exercised successfully for months with a neighbor’s new puppy who had to go on long runs with me or she’d chew up the house! I realized that the pre-paid large group classes or 10Ks did not work for me because the instructors or organizers, while nice, did not ‘need’ people to show up, and left it to our own motivation to participate. And unless I attended a class or event with a friend who expected or ‘needed’ me to go, I often wouldn’t go.
“The new accountability system I’ve now followed for 4 months is simple. Our neighbors mentioned they were hiring a part-time babysitter 2 mornings a week. I asked if she could come to our house first, from 6-7 am. During this time, I go out to exercise. The babysitter is happy to sit, read, and drink coffee while the kids (usually) sleep. If my husband is home, he gets up and leaves for work earlier than usual, which he loves. If he’s traveling, I can still exercise.
“The great part is that the babysitter (and my husband and kids) all cheerfully expect me to go for a run and, when I get back, they ask how it was! In light of this, I feel I can’t just sneak off and do something else! Or cancel — I feel it would be very inconvenient (and unprofessional) for me to change plans, because the babysitter lives 15 min away and would not appreciate rearranging such an early schedule at short notice. The outcome seems to work and be win-win for all of us.
“Exercising consistently on those 2 days somehow makes it easier to add in other sessions on other days (because I feel better about sticking to the plan?), and I have also realized that ‘team’ relay run events are a great exercise goal for me — I have to train for my parts of the relay and participate on the day, or the whole team will be badly affected! Even though I do still wish that my nature was different and that I could be more self-motivated to exercise, it feels really good to have identified the strategies that work best for me, after literally decades of trial and error!”
This terrific story illustrates an important point about Obligers: they differ in what makes them feel “Obligated.”
In this case, we hear, being part of a large group didn’t trigger a sense of external accountability. The sense of obligation arose from a connection to a specific person.
Second, paying money didn’t seem to make this Obliger feel very obligated, while for some people, money is a very powerful factor. Having paid for something, the thought of wasting money on something not used, having to pay a late fee, etc.
As with everything related to habits, the key is to think about what works for you. That’s the way to find success.
Have you found a good strategy to get yourself to exercise regularly? This is one of the habits that people most want to form, and have most trouble with.
If you want to take a Quiz to learn about your Tendency, go here. More than 35,000 people have taken it!