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Can other people help me change? Week two of four: company and support.

This week we'll look at how asking someone to make similar changes with you can help keep you fixed on your goal.

Remember how Joyce gave up smoking with all of her children? Although she didn’t maintain her smoke free goal, she supported her family members, helped them achieve their goals and learned more about her personal change process along the way. If you know someone who wants to make similar changes to their lifestyle, it makes sense to ask if they’d like to help you.

When choosing a diet or exercise buddy, don’t just ask your overweight mate to help on the basis that they could benefit from losing a few lbs, too. If they fail, they’ll bring you down with them. Instead, find someone who can make you accountable rather than tempt you into the cake shop.

Do you need to just share a weekly weigh-in email or be forcibly woken and dragged to the gym? Decide first on the level of involvement you want from your friend and make this clear when you ask them for help. In the scholarly article, Exercise contagion in a global social network, by Sinan Aral and Christos Nicolaides, it was discovered that “exercise is socially contagious and that its contagiousness varies with the relative activity of and gender relationships between friends. Less active runners influence more active runners, but not the reverse.” Put simply, the buddy who already ran more steps gained more in this relationship. This means that, in the case of exercise buddies at least, you would benefit from choosing a candidate who will be slightly less inclined than you to achieve their goal as their small attempts will inspire you to greater efforts.

Don’t feel guilty, after all they’re still achieving more than they were without you and, like Joyce, they’re learning more about their ability to succeed with each attempt.

Do you have a friend who might just be a little behind you in the sports' stakes? Maybe give them a call...

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