This isn’t, technically, an article about exercise. I mean, we’re going to use the habit of exercise as our example, but it’s really about habit formation, expectations, and why we often make the wrong decision when it comes to changing our lives.
This article also isn’t about why accountability partners are helpful. That just seems extremely intuitive. If you want to change your life for the better, the odds of doing it alone are slim to none. If you have a partner, you have a real chance at success. Whether it be learning a language, reading more books, stopping addiction, or exercising three times a week, including a second person on your journey makes life change possible.
So then what is this article about? And what is the Workout Partner Dilemma?
Two Competing Desires
The Workout Partner Dilemma is the tension between two very important desires and the fact that those desires don’t overlap as much as we’d like. The two desires are:
- The desire to spend more time with people I like
- The desire to do something new and challenging
This means that all of the people you know fit on a spectrum of friendship vs. genuine interest in your new idea.
Say, you want to work out three times a week. It would be ideal if your best friend also wanted to work out three times a week. Then, you could spend more time together and get six-pack abs.
But in reality, if your best friend wanted to work out three times a week, you would already be doing that together. But you’re not. In actuality, your friend isn’t that willing to completely upend her schedule to join your personal crusade for a beach bod.
It’s not that your friend doesn’t support you. It’s not that she won’t even try to be there sometimes. It’s just that asking someone to be your accountability/workout partner is asking a lot. And it won’t be any fun unless she’s equally excited.
The good news is that there are dozens of people in your life who want to workout consistently. If you were to ask them to change their weekly schedule to work out with you, they would say, “Yes! I’ve been waiting forever for someone to ask me that!”
The problem is that you likely don’t know them very well, making it even harder to meet people with a shared genuine interest.
The Question: Which is easier?
So when it comes to finding a workout partner, the question is: which is easier?
- Convincing your friend to want something they don’t currently want?
- Becoming friends with someone with similar interests?
Of course, this depends on lots of factors. People aren’t data points on a graph. Maybe your close friend just needs a little time to warm up to the idea. Or maybe that super-consistent-workout-acquaintance is a total douche.
But if you want my opinion…
The Answer: Usually the scary thing
In general, the best course of action is the scary thing. And in this case, the scary thing is to choose a workout partner based on how devoted they are to a similar goal.
This probably means your closest friends are out of the picture. This probably means you will have to go way out of your comfort zone socially. This means you might put an ad on Craigslist. This means you might have to strike-up a conversation at the gym with a stranger. This means you’ll be that guy asking acquaintances if they need a workout partner.
If you want to do something rewarding or challenging, this means that you forget the y-axis and simplify your graph.
Because even though it’s bound to be awkward, it’s way easier to make a friend than to change a friend. (That wasn’t meant to sound so depressing.)
Who you want to be your accountability partner could be getting in the way of finding the right accountability partner.
We all long for the ideal situation where our closest friends are also the ones challenging us to do something awesome. In a perfect world, all of our friends share all of our interests. But that’s rarely the case. It takes effort and awkward conversations to uncover the people in your life who share genuine common interests. And it is those people who will help you the most.
It’s great to have close friends. And it’s great to have big goals and unique interests. But in my experience, don’t expect those two things to go together. If you want to change your life, simplify your graph and leave the friendship component out of it.
Have you experienced the Workout Partner Dilemma? Or have you had success positively changing your lifestyle and friends at the same time?