October 3, 2019

The single, most important secret to achieving your wellness goals

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It was 5:30AM and I was at the office. Its so early, I thought to myself. What am I doing here?

Trying to keep warm and wondering exactly when the sun would start to rise, I saw a senior leader approaching. He was at the office before dawn too. Under any other circumstances, this entire situation would sound incredibly unhealthy – but here’s what happened next:

“Well,” he said, “are we ready to do this?”

Taking a deep breath, I replied assertively, “Yes. Let’s go.”

And off we went for our routine, three hour pre-work run.

Working in wellness, I tend get this question a lot: how do you stick to your goals? It’s a great question. Many health and wellness resolutions start off with the best intentions and then fall flat – quickly. There are many reasons why this occurs: the goal may be too audacious, other priorities may take reign, or old habits are dying hard. That’s why, when it comes to achieving wellness goals, the single, most important piece of advice I can share is to tell your colleagues your goals.

Why your colleagues? Sharing goals with anyone is a great way to make the goals a reality. But I like to stress the significance of sharing these with colleagues vs. a friend or family member because:

  1. With the exception of people who work remotely or for themselves, you see your colleagues every day. Every day! Who better to hold you accountable than the people you spend the most of your time with?
  2. For many, a competitive spirit lives in the workplace. This energy can be harnessed to achieve health and wellness goals.
  3. Sharing goals is a meaningful way for people to connect. This improves the company culture.

Years back, before the days of training with a senior leader at my company, I signed up for a marathon. Instead of sharing the news with my peers, I kept it to myself – and I did that intentionally. I figured that if I didn’t tell my colleagues what was happening, and for some reason I to back out the race, it would be better that no one knew.

In other words, I bid all accountability goodbye.

I thought it would be better to dodge the daily, “How’s training, Martha?” questions from my coworkers … when in reality, I felt less motivated. For anyone who has considered, or done, marathon training before, you’re well aware of the time and energy that training requires. Keeping focused, with only the support of myself, was exhausting. In hindsight, I realized that if I had told my peers about my wellness goals, it would have pushed me more.

After this experience, I tested my hypothesis that people are better at achieving wellness goals when they’re held accountable by their colleagues. While working at Unilever, myself, and a group of peers who were interested in racing a 10K, signed up and trained together. Sure enough, the support of the group, combined with the natural, friendly competitive spirit alive in the workplace, fueled us all.

When I think back to those 5:30AM runs with a senior leader, the memory glows with positivity.  Despite the very early mornings and the brisk weather, I didn’t want to let a senior leader at my company down. And by default, I didn’t let myself down either – the race we worked towards was the race I pushed myself the most.

Do you share health and wellness goals with your colleagues? Why or why not?

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