“I have to. I told them I would or I would give them each $25.”
“So, you’re telling me they’re both doing this as well?”
“No, just me. It was my way of making sure I’ll do it.”
”… Why do you have to do such things?”
So went the conversation between Arshdeep Kaur and me before I went out for a 7K run after not having run since last year’s 10K Sun Run, about which I wrote and the lesson from which I obviously forgot. A week before the conversation above, I had sent a message to my brother and cousin in our fitness group in WhatsApp and said that I would run a total of 7K by the end of the week or would owe them each $25. This, I felt, would mean doing 1K each day and get a good habit going. Instead of kicking into gear, though, I kicked into procrastination mode and blamed a busy schedule and rain for being unable to go each day. Before I knew it, 9pm on Saturday night was upon me and I found myself having the conversation above with my wife. I still had other things to do and it was still raining, but I didn’t want to report the next day that I had done zero, nor did I want to be out $50 for a reason that I could have prevented. I set RunKeeper to my custom 3 Minute On, 1 Minute Off workout setting, hit play on one of my favourite podcasts on Stitcher and set off.
The first 2K passed with a whirlwind of thoughts: “That’s 1K. You would have been done now if this was 6 days ago.” “Maybe my ankle will start hurting like it did during the Sun Run and I can tell them that I had to stop because of an injury.” “Hey, I’m actually enjoying this.” Kilometres 3 and 4 were agonizing because I looked at my phone frequently to check distance and pace. When I stopped doing that, I honestly couldn’t tell you where the next 2.5K went. I don’t know if I zen’d out or passed out and somebody carried me, but what snapped me back to consciousness was the alert that the total distance was 6.5K. Energy rushed into my legs and I finished feeling better than I could have imagined.
Had I told only myself a week earlier that I was going to run 7K total that week and found myself on Saturday night with the full 7 still to go, I would easily have told myself that I could set the new goal to the following week, when the weather would probably be nicer as well. Because I had two people who were going to hold me accountable, however, there was motivation to complete the goal.
That accountability can be key for building new habits. I had a similar deal with a sister of mine who would hold me accountable when I went off Facebook for a month in December. While the urges weren’t as strong to check it as I thought they might be when I started, any time I did think to take a peek at the News Feed in a moment of temporary silence made me think about whether it would be worth the $50 it would cost. As a result of that month, I’m not tied to social networks as I used to be.
With this blog, I announced it to many people. I sent out texts, put up a status on Facebook, Tweeted it and invited friends to Like the Facebook Page. I wanted everyone to hold me accountable. Even though I enjoy writing, there will be times in the future when I’ll want to check my RSS feeds instead, or let other tasks push it down in priority. I know what will pop back up in my head will be my word that I gave to many and I’ll get to writing, lest someone ask me one day how the blogging is going and I say, “Ah, yeah. Well, I never did really get around to it.”
So, if you want to build a habit, try something new, or kick a bad habit, tell others. Make it known what you want to do, what the consequences will be if you don’t do it, and be held accountable.