Partners – Do They Help or Hurt Success?

Partners Gettin' It On...Puzzle Style.

Is it just me or is there something Freudian about this image?

Common wisdom tells us that when we want to achieve something we should tell someone or take on a partner in our own success to make ourselves accountable, but does that really help, or could it actually be doing more harm than good?

An article in the July/August 2011 issue of Scientific American examines studies that seem to indicate that partners are a hinderance to personal success, rather than the helping hand we hope they are.

This counter-intuitive theory was reached by conducting studies of couples and their personal fitness goals.

The researchers found that making goals with partners tended to make the individuals dependent on their partner for motivation, making it likely that without their partner’s “nudge” that they would put off their goals.

So what does this mean for you, looking to achieve success in your business or personal life?

In short it means be accountable to yourself first.  Additionally, if you already have a partner, you may want to consider designating different duties for each of you to perform so that your system is less parasitic and more symbiotic.

There is nothing inherently wrong with partners.  In business, we cannot always do every job, and if we can bring someone on to help lighten our workload, I feel that is a very good reason to take on a partner.  Instead, there is something wrong with bringing on a partner for motivation.  If you do not have the drive yourself to achieve your goal, you may want to examine why you are seeking the goal out in the first place, perhaps it’s not really what you want.

Or perhaps you’re chasing performance rather than mastery in your field.

In either case, you may have to reformulate your goals in such a way that motivates you to get them done.

For instance:

Mary wants to start a shoe company in which all of the shoes are made from certified organic, vegetarian-lamb’s wool, and recycled tire treads because it’s good for the Earth.  She takes on a partner to keep her in check and push her along, but finds the company going nowhere.

If you notice, in the above, Mary’s little lamb’s wool-based shoe company is based on a concept external to herself; helping the Earth.  That’s all well and good, but does nothing to motivate Mary.  So, let’s reframe this:

Mary wants to start a shoe company because she wants to make her own hours, be her own boss, and show off her creativity.  She brings in a partner to handle the financial aspect of things so that she can focus on her message and branding of Earth-conscious footwear.

In both cases, Mary starts a shoe company, but in the latter her reasons for doing so are personal, making her much likely to succeed.  If she truly wants to be her own boss, she will work that much harder to make it happen.  In addition to that the partner is almost an afterthought to the goal, providing only the skills and tools necessary to allow Mary to be able to focus fully on her goal.

So, make goals that you and you alone are accountable for, and whenever possible do things yourself.  If nothing else, it will make your success that much more meaningful when you finally reach it.

Does anyone have any experience working with a partner in business or personal goals where things didn’t quite work out?  Tell me about it in the comments!

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