The Importance of Public Accountability, and How to Do It

Two steps in the 6 Changes method are extremely crucial, even if many people will be tempted to skip them:

  1. Commit as publicly as possible to creating each new habit.
  2. Log your progress daily, and very publicly.

These steps are extremely important — without them, you’re liable to drop your new habit at any time.

I know this from personal experience: my first successful habit change was quitting smoking, and I had failed at this habit 7 times before finding the successful formula. Many times I just told myself that I’d quit the next day, without telling anyone, because … if I failed, no one would know, and it wouldn’t be embarrassing. You can probably guess that I failed because I knew no one would judge me for it.

And so when I committed publicly, I didn’t fail. I told everyone I knew. I joined a smoking cessation forum and told everyone there I was quitting. I made a promise to my wife and oldest daughter. I was all in.

You need to be all in. You need to tell everyone. You need to be completely committed, or you’re wasting your time.

How to Commit Publicly

Some ways to do it:

  • If you have a blog, that’s perfect. Tell everyone on your blog that you’re going to create this new habit.
  • Social networks are also great: Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, etc.
  • Email all your friends and family and let them know.
  • Tell all your coworkers, and even post a sign in a public place in your office.
  • Write a column for your local newspaper or a blog or magazine.
  • Join a forum of others doing similar things, and tell them all about your habit change.

There are other ways you might think of, but these are some ideas to start you off.

How to Log Your Progress Publicly

It’s just as important that you not only commit, but stay accountable to the same people you committed to.

So if you committed on your blog, on a social network, or on a forum, post your progress every day to that same place. If you committed via email, send out daily email updates. If you told your coworkers and posted up a sign, let them all know, every day, how you’re doing.

A good alternative is to find a public log, such as FitDay or The Daily Plate or The Daily Mile or Daytum something like that (see my Daytum), or even just create a public Google Docs spreadsheet, and then share the link to your public log with everyone. Don’t let this become a place to hide your progress, though — you need to remind everyone, often, to check your log so that you’ll feel accountable.

However you do it, engineer it so that you can’t back down. Be all in.

Why You Should Only Do One Habit at a Time

Many people will read the 6 Changes Method and be put off by the idea that you have to choose one habit and work on it for 2 months at a time.

That’s too little. They want to do several habits at once.

I’m here to tell you that while several habits can be formed at once, it’s much more difficult, and chances are you’re setting yourself up for failure.

So sure, if you are too impatient, try doing 3-5 habits at once. I wish you all the success in the world. But … if that doesn’t work, try the 6 Changes Method. You’ll be setting yourself up for success.

I’ve tried to create multiple habits at once, and I’ve had very mixed success. Usually I fail at it.

I’ve tried doing one habit at a time. I’ve succeeded almost 100% of the time when I do that.

Creating a new habit is difficult — it entails doing something consciously, as consistently as possible, breaking old bonds between a trigger and your old habit and creating a new bond between a trigger and your new habit. It’s not easy.

And we lose motivation, and life inevitably gets in the way.

And will all that up against you, why stack even more odds in the favor of failure by trying to do this not with one habit, but with several?

Try doing one habit at a time. Your success rate won’t just double or triple — it’ll go up tenfold.