I’ve long held the view that when men dress well (which I admit can be unusual), they are light years ahead of the average woman in terms of style. Why? Because despite changes in social norms and the rise of the metrosexual, men’s clothing still abides by stricter rules and expectations than that of women.
Think about it: it’s perfectly acceptable for women to wear heels or flats, anything from jeans to Hillary Clinton-style pantsuits to skirts or dresses of any length, with shirts, blouses or tops of every style, all in an endless array of shapes, colours, patterns and fabrics. The result is often a chaotic lack of style.
Men, on the other hand, work within a much narrower framework. They are forced to use imagination. Perhaps a man might express his style in the width of a lapel, the subtle layering of different shades of blue in pattern, texture and fabric, the flash of vibrant colour from an orange leather belt. When they get it right, men’s clothing is multi-faceted and really stylish.
Dealing with distractions
So what does this have to do with anything?
Too much choice can sometimes blind us to the most imaginative choice, or to the choice that’s right for us. And the sheer volume of information and distractions can stop us living our real lives and reaching our goals. In the face of such volume of possibility, we can actually freeze up and despair.
So how do we discover the best choice for us, manage the distractions, and live the lives we want?
Coaching is an excellent, proven option, tailored to the individual, but it costs money that not everyone has.
What’s an accountability ally?
Another possibility is to work with an accountability ally.
This is a friend or acquaintance with whom you’ll work for a specific period, no exchange of money involved. You’ll share dreams, wishes, goals and, most importantly, the steps you will take towards your goals. You’ll share commitment.
It’s an equal relationship in which you hold each other accountable for the progress you’ll make.
Ten steps to making it work
Here’s how it works:
- Find your ally. It can be a good friend but there’s a lot to be said for working with someone you don’t know intimately. It can make for a more objective relationship. It has to be someone you can trust totally to keep your confidentiality.
- Agree the length of time you’ll work together. Three or four months is probably the minimum commitment to effect real change.
- You begin with some solo work: you’ll each write down up to five things you want to accomplish. Maybe you want to start a business, get fitter, learn French. Break each one down into manageable chunks and work out a realistic schedule for when you can carry out each chunk. Remember: you’re going to commit to this and have another person hold you accountable. Once you have a written plan and schedule, share it with each other.
- Now the fun starts! You’re going to have regular conversations with your partner and during those conversations you’ll describe the progress you’ve made since the last time you spoke. And vice versa.
- Agree how often you’ll speak. Some people check in once a day for ten minutes, others once a week for an hour. Anything less frequently than once a week will slow your momentum. (Other world-class procrastinators will identify with my belief that I can catch up with everything I’ve put off for a month in just half an hour.) Most people speak by phone and if possible meet face-to-face occasionally. But with Skype, there’s nothing to prevent you having an accountability ally anywhere in the world.
- Do use voice as your main communication by the way. Follow up with email, messaging or whatever, but there’s nothing like hearing your own voice describe what you have or haven’t done to bring home your progress or lack of it. And your partner can ask questions on the spot.
- During your calls, divide your time exactly in half and take it in turns to start. Set a timer so you know when it’s the other person’s turn.
- When it’s your turn to listen, do just that. Ask probing questions if your partner hasn’t done something they’d committed to, but be brief, calm, and compassionate. And this exercise isn’t conversational, it’s functional. For example your partner says something didn’t happen as expected: this is not your cue to launch into “Yes, I remember when the same thing happened to me back in 1975…”!
- When it’s your turn to talk, be honest and straightforward.
- Agree to mutual celebrations as you reach your goals. If you’re able to meet up, go out for a delicious meal. If not you’ll have to be more imaginative, but it’s really important to acknowledge and celebrate your progress.
So that’s it, how to work with an accountability ally. I’d love to know what you think, whether you’ve done this before or plan to.