Other people can be great sources of motivation. In past articles, we've written about the protégé effect (how doing for others makes you do more), how you can encourage a friend, and how to hold yourself accountable. Sometimes, though, you may need to directly ask someone — a friend, family member, coach, etc. — for their support.
Learning to ask for help can be tough. Not only can asking for help feel like admitting weakness (even though it isn't), it also requires you to define what "help" or "support" means to you. You can't expect others to read your mind and know what's going to help you.
How can you make the most out of asking someone for support so that they are able to be effective and helpful? The key is in preparing ahead of time. Here are some things you can do before asking for encouragement.
1. Reflect on what has helped
Odds are, this isn't the first time you've struggled to stay motivated. Think back to other times when you were highly motivated to achieve something. What worked well for you? What flopped?
Do you like tough love? Or is positivity the only tone that works for you?
Was there a big reward at the end? A dire consequence that gave you a wake up call?
Do other priorities get in the way? Would it be helpful to have someone keep your priorities on track?
Are visual reminders helpful and inspiring? Do you work best when you have deadlines?
If something worked well for you, you can ask your support system to try that strategy to keep you motivated. For example, you can tell your buddy, "Whenever I'm reminded of how I'll feel after I've achieved my goal, it inspires me. If you could keep reminding me about the rewards of achieving my goal, that would be so helpful."
Feel free to try something new, too, and don't be afraid of it failing. Learning how to ask others for help is like building any skill. Asking for help may always be a work-in-progress. By failing, you're learning and improving.
2. Have a clear plan
At Supporti, we're big fans of plans. Knowing the who, what, when, and where ahead of time can manage expectations on both sides of the relationship. This helps prevent any uncomfortable situations where you'd have to say to your friend, "Hey, haven't heard from you in a while. What's going on?" Who's helping whom, exactly?
When you approach someone to ask for their support, be as clear as possible about what you need. If you want someone to call you every day at 6:30 a.m. to make sure you get up to work out, then tell them that. If you want your friend to hold you accountable to avoiding sweets, let them know you'll be sending them photos of all of your meals, and they should remind you in case you forget to send a photo. How often should they remind you? Take your best guess, and then adjust as necessary.
Your buddy may of course have some ideas for other ways to encourage you. Since your supporter is doing you a favor, try to be open to experimenting with various strategies.
3. Define consequences at the outset
One way your supporter can be helpful is by keeping you honest toward your predefined consequences if you don't achieve your goal. What will be the penalty if you don't check in or perform your goal? Your buddy can make sure it happens.
Websites such as Stickk or DietBet let you wager money on doing your goal, using loss aversion as a motivator. Your consequence doesn't have to be financial in nature. Get creative. Maybe it's doing your least-favorite chore for a month. It can be something slightly embarrassing, like posting your middle-school yearbook photo on social media. Or simply having to admit to yourself (or buddy) out loud that you flaked could be punishment enough. The point is, when you might otherwise be tempted to let some things "slide" when it's just you, a supporter's job can be to truly hold you accountable to those self-prescribed consequences.
4. Be someone else's accountability partner
By giving you encouragement, your buddy is graciously helping you out. As a result, you may feel indebted to them. You can show your appreciation in a variety of ways, such as buying them a gift or sending a heartfelt thank you card. You can even pay it forward (or back) by offering to support them in their own goals!
In fact, by supporting someone else as an accountability partner, you'll get first-hand experience on what it's like. You'll gain empathy of what your supporter will go through when you ask them for help. This gives you the advantage of knowing what works well and what's difficult. Of course, you'll probably also realize that what works for one person may not work for another (or you).
By the way, if you're in the market for an accountability partner and are looking for a way to get regular encouragement towards your goals, check out Supporti. We're making an app that pairs you with an accountability partner, and you'll both be each other's support buddies. You can sign up for the waitlist or pilot program today.
Good luck and bravo for taking the first step in asking for help!