Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Getting Things Done: Accountability 101

It seems strange that an obvious goal like losing weight or taking the garbage out would need some sort of external encouragement. After all, the results of these things are clear: you lose weight, and you get the garbage taken out.

But from time to time, we all need a little push. We know we could swim if we walk off the end of the dock, but other than "swimming is fun," there doesn't seem to be any incentive to do it.

What's needed in cases where task-specific motivation is a challenge is some form of accountability. After all, you manage to drag yourself up and out of bed and off to the unpleasant challenge of your daily commute. Why? Because you have a job, and you're accountable for your presence (unless you're Timothy Ferriss, that is). Someone is keeping you honest, and there's a consequence if you don't do it.

I decided this week that I was going to get TACFIT Commando certified. It's a workout system...that's the core of it. Each of three levels of difficulty lasts three cycles of 28 days, for a total of 84 days per level. That's three months, which means the entire program runs to nine months.

Nine months is a long time to stick to anything. However, studies have proven that it takes five weeks for an activity to become a habit.

That's all well and good, but we all know that life can really get in the way of our best-laid plans. Still, this system requires half an hour a day. Can I move for half an hour a day? Yes I can. Will I? Well, that all depends...what's my motivation?

There are several motivations here. First and foremost is getting tactically fit. I'm not a soldier of course, but the program provides "combat readiness" in the sense that the musculature is trained to be highly mobile and neurologically active. Think martial arts plus bodyweight plus yoga.

The second motivation is financial. Any time you train and become certified in something there's a possibility of extending your business to that field. Certification means you're qualified to instruct, and if it's something people want or need, being the expert is always a good thing.

But that sort of motivation will only get you so far. We as humans are designed for equilibrium. When things are "good enough," we taper off and get comfortable (this routine is NOT comfortable). For this reason, it's essential to have a good accountability factor. In many cases, this means something real and tangible, not just drive or desire. I have the desire to achieve it, but that may not be enough to muscle through the equilibrium.

To this end, I've enlisted the help of my long-time friend and ass-kicker, Paul. Paul is the guy, you'll remember, who helped me with the house cleaning a couple weeks back. He's a big dude. This is important...because he's not just going to make sure I do my workouts every day. If I skip a workout, I owe him a Chinese dinner.

For most people, that doesn't mean much. It's affordable. But this guy can eat. He's 6'7". He's around 350lbs of major muscle (just pulled a 385lb. bench for 6 reps...he once deadlifted the front end of my Corolla out of a snow bank!). That means a Chinese dinner is a pretty sizable investment...around $60 for every missed workout.

Not something I want to be indebted to!

At the same time, Paul wants to eat healthier. For him that means cutting back on things like...huge Chinese dinners. Hmmm...

So right there, he's got his incentive for kicking my butt. I can make sure he doesn't cheat on his diet by making sure he keeps my workouts on track (I know...who thinks of a free dinner as punishment, right? It's all in the framing). What this means is I have to check in every day and tell him when I've done my workout. Sure, it's a bit of an honour system, but we can't have it all. Just knowing when I skip is enough for me.

If you're trying to get focused up on something and you're not quite motivated enough to be totally dogged about it, get someone to keep you accountable for it. It works wonders, and you'll never have to worry about cheating yourself.


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