While watching the movie The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, I was struck by one particular scene. It didn’t quite make sense to me, but upon thinking about it further, I forgot how powerful one particular notion of our existence is. For those who have yet to see the movie and want to enjoy it, skip over the spoiler section.
While breaking into Martin’s house, Mikael heard Martin’s car pulling up to the driveway. Immediately, he begins to sneak out of the house. Mikael went unnoticed, until he tripped and fell while going down a hill, which prompted Martin to come out. Pretending to be unaware of the fact that Mikeal is onto him, Martin invites Mikael to come into the house for a drink. Mikael obliges and takes him up on the offer. Once they settled inside, Martin suddenly pulls out a gun and captures Mikael.
Martin then mused:
“Why don’t people trust their instincts? You knew something was wrong, but you came back into the house. Did I force you, did I drag you? No. All I had to do was offer you a drink. It’s hard to believe that the fear of offending someone is stronger than the fear of pain. But you know what? It is.”
Although the example is fictional, you see it in action everyday, most prominently in peer pressure. You don’t want to give in to it, but people will often go do something against their will because they don’t want to disappoint or let down their friend.
If that energy is so powerful, is there a way to use it to our advantage? What if you could channel the typically negative effects of peer pressure to become more productive?
That’s what the Partner System is about. It is a system designed to motivate you to accomplish routine tasks through the fear of letting someone down.
Partner System In Workouts
Last summer, I told myself that I am going to get in shape through P90X, which is an intense 90 days workout routine. I did it together with some friends, and since we didn’t see each other everyday, one of us created a Facebook group where we had to “check in” by posting on the wall after we finished our workout.
One day, I found myself in a dilemma. I had gotten home from a long day of work, and was in no particular mood to do my workout. Usually, my mind will give me a get out of jail free pass and let me off the hook. However, when I logged on Facebook and saw that many of my buddies on the list had posted their daily check-in, I started sweating.
The weight of my laziness started settling. Surely no one would ask if I didn’t post, right? I mean it’s just one day; no one is going to notice. Maybe I should just lie? Dang it, I should just get my ass up and get it done.
I was close, but wasn’t able to follow through. I admitted defeat, leaving the cursor blinking on my screen.
The shame of not having done the workout and not being able to post for the day spurred me to do all the workouts from there on out. In the end, I was able to complete 45 days out of the 90, more than I had ever hoped to accomplish if I went through the program myself.
It was an inspiring thought that opened my doors to many other possibilities.
Partner System In Early Birds
I usually have a hard time waking up early, but that bad habit wasn’t going to cut it when I enrolled in a difficult class that started at 9am in the morning. Fortunately, an idea came to my mind where I implemented the Partner System to help me accomplish my goal.
I asked one of my friends to do this routine with me where we would take turns giving each other a wake up call. On Monday, I would have to wake up at 7am and give him his morning call. On Tuesday, he woke me up by persistently calling my phone.
This technique of accountability works extremely well. By myself, there would be days where I would just press snooze too many times and feel no remorse. Doing so this time, however, meant that I would let down my friend. No matter how difficult each morning was, I had to pull through.
As a result, we made it to almost every single class.
Partner System Everywhere
Although the pain of disappointing someone is great, the reward for doing a routine together is even greater. It was fun having breakfast together, and it made it a lot easier to know that there was someone else suffering through the routine with me. The Partner System has become a powerful tool in my life because like many others, I am able to accomplish much more with someone else.
Here are some suggestions of activities and routine you can do together with your buddies:
Whether it’s the SAT or for an upcoming test. I found that if you guys alternate playing the “bad cop” and force each other to work for say 30-40 minutes at a time, you guys will get so many things done. No big groups though, those tend to turn out chaotic and unproductive.
-Cooking and Cleaning
If you’re in college, you know that no matter what, the dishes pile up, and there would often be no warm dinner when you home from school. Use the Partner System where you alternatively cook and wash dishes after. Your roommate can make dinner on Monday while you take care of the dishes after. Then switch off. Your apartment will become spotless. The best part is you get to enjoy a home-cooked dinner every other day.
-Getting Work Done
Have a tough assignment coming up for work? Let one of your co-workers or friends know, and have them remind you periodically through a call or in person to keep going. Anyone who has run a marathon or a race knows how important having encouragement along the way is. If they have an important assignment too, you guys can both encourage each other. Try this, and you’ll see that the assigment doesn’t seem to be that intimidating anymore.
Doing routine tasks doesn’t have to be difficult; involve a friend and you’ll see that it gets done in no time, all the time.
If you have any other suggestions on how to use the Partner System, leave them down in the comments below!
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