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We often think of self-improvement as a pretty solitary activity. But connecting it with other people can be hugely valuable. And of course, social networks are the easiest way to do that today.
The key is to find what motivates you. For some people, it’s the potential public shame. For others, it is about finding people who share the same goals. Even a virtual pat on the back can be enough to keep you going.
Use Social Networks If You “Cheat” Easily
The process of forming a good habit can take many days. And that phase is the hardest part, where you are more likely to cheat or relapse. If that has happened to you in the past, a social network can help you achieve your goal.
Stanford researchers found [PDF] that our ego (our inherent need to protect ourselves) is the culprit here. When we cheat on a goal, we tell ourselves that it’s not a big deal — “it’s just one mistake.” But we don’t make an honest assessment of what that misstep really means. We need the impartial eyes of others to tell us that.
Social networks are excellent for this type of public accountability from people you trust. By declaring your progress and stumbles, you will find out a true analysis of how you are doing.
Put It Into Action
A great approach for this is to start a mastermind group to help achieve goals. This is a select group of people with a little more structure than the ad-hoc nature of social media.
There are a few basics to forming a successful mastermind group:
- Declare your goals publicly
- Have common ground
- Pick members carefully
- Set regular check-ins
- Structure your meetings
- Keep a rewards/risk system in place
How you communicate with your mastermind group is key. We would recommend the chat app Slack, or weekly video meetings on Appear.in. We here at MakeUseOf use both these apps regularly, and can vouch for them.
There are already some first-rate Slack communities open to the public, and you can check Slack List or SloFile for thousands more. Spending a few days in one of those should lead you to find like-minded souls who you can form a mastermind group with.
A Public Check-In Pressures You Into Good Behavior
Not all goals are something you enjoy. For instance, regular exercise to lose weight isn’t everyone’s favorite way to spend some time. But much like gym buddies can make workouts more interesting, social networks can make solo exercises better.
— Kelly Anne Blount (@KellyAnneBlount) March 13, 2017
Psychologist and author Elizabeth Lombardo says that a public declaration of your goals forces you to be accountable:
“When no one is around to say anything about an incomplete task, it’s easy to push it back to the next day or even the next week . . . But putting the task or the goal out there for others to see is more motivating, if for no other reason than you simply don’t want to look bad to others.”
That said, you should know that this public pressure is a short-term motivator. People with public goals tend to eventually rely on internal motivation. Maximillian Klein, who set a public to-do list for two years, said that external pressure can motivate you, but you need to translate it into intrinsic motivation.
Put It Into Action
Karen X. Cheng started a self-challenge movement with “Give It 100”. The concept is to pick a goal or activity (like doing push-ups or learning to dance), and do it every day for 100 days. And each day, you’re going to film yourself, recording your successes and failures.
It’s an amazing way to stay motivated for your goals, and forces honesty from you. The day you don’t check in, your followers will be asking what happened.
Give It 100 is now an Instagram hashtag, so you can participate in the movement by tagging your videos with #GiveIt100.
Selfies Are Good (And So Is Anonymity)
Social networks like Facebook require your real name. Other like Twitter let you stay anonymous if you choose to. Whatever you choose, you can see the benefits, according to studies.
For example, there is a new phenomenon of sweaty selfies at the gym. You must have seen these on Instagram or Snapchat already. But they have surprising benefits, as several psychologists told The Daily Burn. These selfies increase self-confidence and get you instant gratification from friends in the form of likes and comments. And that, in turn, can serve as a motivator for you to get out of bed the next day.
So stop hating on selfies and utilize them instead! Sign up for a social network like Instagram or Snapchat and post selfies there. It doesn’t need to be gym selfies alone, any progress will do.
But if you’re a bit shy about your weight, that’s fine too. Researchers found that the anonymity of Twitter was a positive aspect for some people. A study by the University of Southern Carolina found that people who posted their weight loss on Twitter lost more weight than those who didn’t. In fact, the more they tweeted, the more weight they lost, with roughly 20 tweets leading to a 1 percent loss.
Put It Into Action
Finding the right network for selfies will depend on what your goal is. For example, since fitness lends itself to photos, you can try Reddit’s r/ProgressPics. Similarly, Instagram has a hashtag for #transformationtuesday.
It’s a community where you can post selfies of your fitness journey, helping you both keep a track of your progress and get some much-needed encouragement at times.
Since Instagram lends itself to selfies within a community, that should be the first social network you turn to. You can find the best hashtags on Instagram and pick what meets your needs.
Finding Like-Minded People Makes It Fun
Goals can come in many forms. But if you aren’t having fun as you go along, then what’s the point? The self-improvement process should be enjoyable too. Social networks can help with that as you find people in the same boat as you.
Perhaps the most famous version of this is NaNoWriMo. Every November, writers across the world come together in a community to finish a novel in 30 days. It’s a supportive community, pushing each other on and helping in any way possible.
Plus, like-minded people will share the same trials and tribulations of a goal as you do. They are more likely to understand what you’re going through and help you out. In the end, it’s a simple concept. Having a buddy always makes things more fun, right?
Put It Into Action
To find a community you can belong to, turn to two of the internet’s biggest social networks: Reddit and Facebook.
At Reddit, start with the kindest communities on Reddit to find a place where you find others like you. Ask people in those subreddits if they can recommend more such places, and they’ll help you out.
Facebook has millions of Facebook Groups, but it can be difficult to locate the right one. We’ve talked about a few ways to discover new Facebook Groups, and you should start by using the Facebook Groups app. Its “Discover” tab recommends groups based on your likes, and the search function is robust enough to uncover great leads.
We now have clear science-backed guidelines to achieve goals. Monitor your progress frequently, measure each step, and announce everything publicly. It is this last one where social networks really come into play.
Have you tried using social networks to achieve your goals? What did you like and dislike about it? If you haven’t tried it, would you consider it?
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