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Asking other people for help: Pitfalls

Earlier in this blog we discussed how a fear of publicly failing can prevent people from being open about their goals and how this fear prevents many from asking for help from others.

Often this feeling of failure stems from a friend or colleague expressing disappointment at your perceived lack of effort, ungratefulness at their help or slow rate of success. In some cases it can even be borne from a friend achieving more in a shorter time, especially where there is a competitive element to the support relationship.

Here are some sure fire methods to prevent this from happening and ensure you can use the support of everyone around you to supercharge your goal setting success.

Feeling of failure from perceived lack of effort. To avoid this, decide in advance how much you want to be kept on track. Before you ask a friend for help, understand the level to which you want to be monitored and make this clear from the outset. If you want your work colleague to keep you out of the pub on a Friday night but have no plans to remain teetotal at the Christmas party, be upfront about this. If you only want to walk on dry days, let them know before they appear in raincoats and wellies at your office.

Being made to feel ungrateful for your friend’s help. Sometimes your friend may not know when to switch off the help and feel aggrieved that their hard work has gone unappreciated. If your needs change it pays to be open about how your friend can still help. So when you’ve ditched the 4pm biscuit habit but your friend is still texting you daily at 3.50pm to warn you off it then thank them for their part in your success, be specific about how they helped and explain whether there’s a new role for them in your next mini goal.

Feelings of failure at the slow rate of your success. Sometimes you may accidentally unleash a task master determined to drag you to each goal whether you’re ready or not. While we all need a push once in a while, our goal in this book is long term maintainable health change. This will not be achieved by someone else forcing us against our will so remind your goal driven friend of the reason for your change and downgrade their part in your process. At the same time, don’t be afraid to give yourself breaks and holidays from big goals. The journey is not smooth and one weekend of relaxed eating will not put on the stone you already lost.

Feelings of failure when your friend reaches their goal first. Be aware of competitive supporters who may try to beat you to your goals, unless that’s an inspiration. In the experiment about exercise contagion, it was noted that less active runners influenced more active runners, not the other way around. If your friend is already a good runner and offers to help you get started, the chances are that you’ll encourage them to greater distances while you may be, literally, left in their dust. When challenging someone with the purpose of bettering your health, choose someone you know you can beat. If you choose badly, chalk it up to experience and find another way to get to that goal.

As we learned in the stages of change blog, people relapse regularly while learning how to form a new habit. Writer Robert Brault defines an optimist as "someone who figures that taking a step backward after taking a step forward is not a disaster, it's a cha-cha". Avoid these pitfalls and stay optimistic this week.

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