zen habits : breathe

The Two-Headed Beast of Successful Habit Change

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Tyler Tervooren of Advanced Riskology.

I used to have a lot of bad habits. I still do, but I used to have a lot more. Here’s just a small sampling:

  1. I woke up late and went to bed early.
  2. I procrastinated on my most important work.
  3. I neglected my relationships.
  4. I drank too much.
  5. I bit my fingernails.
  6. I slouched a lot.
  7. I picked my nose (no joke).
  8. I bought worthless things I didn’t need.
  9. I chewed with my mouth open.
  10. I dressed like a slob.
  11. I ate tons of junk food.

I could go on, but none of that’s incredibly important. What’s important is that I used to have a lot of bad habits, and now I have fewer.

I spent years dissatisfied with my habits and never made much progress changing them. Yes, sometimes I’d make a small step forward, but it usually wasn’t long until I was back to “Old Tyler” again (thanks, procrastination habit).

I’m fortunate to have learned recently that it doesn’t have to be this way.

I always thought I could change things myself — I’m a die-hard do-it-yourselfer — so I never gave a second thought to any other way.

The thing that helped me finally knock out that eleven point list (plus a few other habits I’m too embarrassed to mention here), took a real leap of faith; I let someone help me.

It started as a practical matter. I decided to try vegetarianism and recruited my girlfriend to try it with me so we could eat together. That lasted more than a year before consciously changing diets. We did the same thing to stop biting our nails.

For the very first time, I was developing habits that I created on purpose. It felt great — like I was really in control of my life after years of spinning my wheels.

How could I keep this going?

At the time, I was so fiercely independent that I hardly realized what had contributed to the success. It took a few more heart-crushing failures with other goals before finally getting the picture.

Late in 2010, a friend mentioned he wanted to wake up earlier to get more work done in the morning. I remembered how much I enjoyed waking up early when I actually did it, so I agreed to a six o’clock meeting and accountability report every morning. Almost one year later, we’re still going strong.

It’s pretty amazing what a little accountability can do for your motivation.

Since then, I’ve wised up and started recruiting partners to help me with all of my big goals:

The difference is incredible.

The secret is that, for some of us, successful habit change is a two-headed beast — not something to be tackled alone. If you’ve struggled with habit change yourself, recruit some help.

But who do you ask? And how do you find the right partners in crime? Unfortunately, not just anyone is a good fit. Picking the right person that will compliment you is just as important as picking someone at all.

Fair warning: Friends and relatives do not always make the best accountability partners.

Through plenty of trial and error, I’ve found a few characteristics that I look for in someone I’m about to partner with to make an important life change. Perhaps they’ll help you find a good fit, too.

If you’ve ever struggled with making an important habit change in your life, then I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone and ask for help. If you’re like me, it could turn everything around.

What do you want to change? Who can help?

Tyler Tervooren writes for a team of highly skilled risk takers helping each other do meaningful things in their lives at Advanced Riskology. Follow him on Google+.

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