You know what’s even harder than finding the right plan? Finding the right people to support you as you’re trying to make a positive change in your life.
As I was figuring out my diet plan, my eating slowly diverged from the group’s — I’d skip a second cocktail, not have dessert every time I went out with the team. Every time I didn’t do as everyone else, I’d get these little sideways glances.
You’ve probably had this happen to you, too.
Your peers and colleagues see you trying to improve yourself, making uncomfortable choices, and what do they say?
“What, is something wrong? Are you sick? Why are you doing that?” or even worse, “Oh come on, it’s not going to kill you!”
The people who we surround ourselves with influence our behavior more than we’d like to admit. Even worse, many of them want us to fail, because it will make them look better. It justifies their inaction.
Think back to the family member guilting you into getting dessert with them, the “friend” who tells you you can go to the gym another night so you can drink with them.
“You sure you don’t wanna have one more with me?” they say when they hear I would prefer waking up early and going for a run before I have to be at an important meeting to whatever they have planned.
But, just like the doubters can drag us down, good allies can ensure our success.
While I was running my experiments and trying to figure out health on the road, I joined a rock climbing group with one of my project teams. The offer was simple — come rock climbing with us once a week, instead of sitting in the hotel bar drinking a beer and doing the crossword. I enjoy climbing, so I thought “what the hell, might as well.”
After climbing, we went to dinner, and when someone said “I don’t think I’m gonna have a drink,” the next thing was something I’d never heard at a dinner with colleagues before:
“Yeah, I don’t think I need one either.”
For once, I was around people who wanted the same things that I wanted. They encouraged me to make the choices that were best for me. That crew helped me on my journey as much as all of my obsessive self-experimentation and research and reading.
Fast-forward a few years. I continued refining my strategies, doing more little experiments — was there a way to eat well that was even simpler? That wouldn’t even draw notice at a team dinner? (verdict: yes).
Could I do less exercise and still see the results I wanted? (verdict: also yes) How much less? (verdict: it depends)
How do I change my habits in a systematic, effective way? How do I stop a bad habit, or adopt a good one? (verdict: it’s complicated. I ended up dedicating a whole Academy lesson to the topic).
I was getting fitter, happier, (more productive, too) on the road. At the same time, I was still watching my colleagues become miserable, sick, tired, and just plain burned out.
My climbing group had been split to new projects, and I needed to find new allies— the climbers had gotten me over the initial hurdle, but I wasn’t sure if I could keep on going on my own..
I started building new alliances. One friend to run with, a small crew that would play board games instead of going to the bar. Every time, just as we were starting to trust and encourage each other, we’d get reassigned to new projects.
I wanted to create close alliances with people who couldn’t be physically near each other.
I wanted to help my friends and colleagues solve this problem faster than I did, to be the ally I never had, and to keep good allies close for my own success.
In short, I needed a better way.