This time of year, we’re all trying to find whatever methods we can to help us achieve our goals (those things that really matter to us) more successfully.
It’s possible that some of us have neglected a resource that research is reminding us has transformational capacities for helping us achieve our goals more effectively.
We all know that accountability is a powerful tool in this regard. But accountability with whom? And specifically how?
I recently read a Harvard Business Review article that referenced this significant strategy. The authors stated what many of us have found to be true:
it’s easier to achieve our goals when we don’t try to go it alone.
In fact, a study of rowers found that their working together in training actually heightened their threshold for pain. They were able to row farther and harder because of their synchronized bond.
This is because of two factors. Physical exertion increases the endorphins in our system that gives us a certain euphoria. But when done in social connection, this euphoria is increased by oxytocin–thus increasing the ability to withstand higher levels of painful output to achieve a common goal.
So building relational accountability into establishing and carrying out our goals is a significant empowerment for success.
I’ve certainly found this to be true. For the last twenty four years, I’ve had the joy of a weekly “touching base” with Paul who started out as an accountability partner but soon became my best friend.
Our weekly check-ins–during which we share what’s happening in our lives as well as how we’re doing with the goals we’ve established for the year–continues to build encouragement and support for both of us. We tell each other regularly how we simply can’t imagine going through life without this kind of mutual support.
Do this with your significant other. The HBR article goes on to suggest another powerful social connection that often gets ignored, to the detriment of our effectiveness: the relationship with our significant other. Here’s the way the authors Jackie and John Coleman put it:
By talking about your goals with your spouse and writing them down, you’ve already improved your odds of success.
There’s a kind of genius in this specific process. By being intentional with the person we are closest to, we are not only deepening the bond, we are also raising our success rate in accomplishing what matters most to us. And our pain threshold increases as we face obstacles along the way.
So let me suggest FOUR STRATEGIES to keep in mind as you do this with your significant other.
- Establish regular appointments for goal conversation.
These times are first for the identifying of your individual goals. What matters most to you and how can you accomplish that as effectively and strategically as possible? Talk openly and honestly about those issues with each other. The fact that these are things that truly matter to both of you increases the bond between you. And the out loud conversation heightens your individual sense of significance about the issues.
2. Write down your goal commitments together.
Once you’ve identified your goals, write down your commitments and actions for those goals. Here’s what the latest research indicates about the importance of writing these down.
Researchers found that of a group of individuals who passively agreed to participate in a volunteer project, only 17% showed up to participate. Contrast that with those who agreed to volunteer through active means (writing it down, signing a contract, etc.), 49% appeared as promised. (Jackie and John Coleman)
The process of writing down these commitments as a couple increases the likelihood of following through on the commitments and goals. Your success rate goes up.
3. Develop couple goals and write them down.
My wife and I do this regularly. Establishing couple goals really helps us to think strategically about what we want our marriage to be more like, what we want us a couple to accomplish together, what practices and rituals we want to adopt and step into, how we want to use our individual strengths to build a stronger relationship, what our dreams are for our marriage and how we can accomplish them, what obstacles there might be to putting this into practice and what we can do about those, etc.
4. Review your individual and couple progress regularly.
Quarterly, we have a review and evaluation conversation. How are doing with our commitments both individually and as a couple? What have we accomplished so far? What have we yet to do? How are we feeling so far–what feeling words would we each choose to describe how things are going individually and relationally?
Because we are the safest people to each other and our biggest cheerleaders, we give permission for the other to speak truth to ourselves, to give outside perspective on any blind spots we individually might be experiencing, or to observe where we might be off track and why, etc. And of course we do lots of affirming and validating about our progress–every even small movement forward we celebrate!
These intentional and regular conversations are actually very bonding for us. Our increased sense of togetherness really spikes our pain tolerance when we have to push through difficult obstacles along the way.
Here’s the way the Colemans summarize:
Planning for both professional and personal goals with your partner can help you better care for one another, assure that you’re both focused on the issues that matter most, and enlist your biggest supporter in helping you to achieve your goals and get things done.
If you haven’t started doing this kind of process with your significant other, I encourage you to try it. It might take some getting used to. But the results can really increase the odds of your success in accomplishing what matters most to you this year. Why not leverage the person closest to you who as it turns out actually has the highest stakes in your success?
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If you and your significant other would like assistance in developing this process for your relationship, please let me know. I do this all the time with couples. It’s very transformational for relationships. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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