4th January 2017
“No-man is an island, entire of itself; rather every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. ”
If you’ve been following along with the previous posts in our 7 step series, then by now you should be at a point where, through self reflection , you’ve been able to form a pretty clear idea about who you are and about what’s important to you. Ideally you’ve started learning about how to use those priorities to create your vision and goals in life, and you’ve started down the path of forming good habits and tracking your success at performing those habits consistently. Now it’s time to learn about creating accountability.
These things are all an excellent start, and now the next step is to start seeking out the assistance of others to help hold you accountable in achieving your goals. Making and maintaining any kind of big life changes over the long term can be difficult; it’s easier if you have some friends or a support group to help you along the way. “The right thing to do and the hard thing to do are usually the same.” ― Steve MaraboliClick To Tweet
There is a constant battle going on for your mind, your time, and your attention; most people are glued to their screens and easily distracted by the constant barrage of notifications, emails, advertisements, pop-ups, phone calls, and everything else that assaults us throughout the day. In fact, a study from Microsoft says that the average human’s attention span is now only about 8 seconds—one second shorter than that of a goldfish! This means that it it is easier than ever to get distracted from your well-intentioned goals. You need help!
“If you hang out with chickens, you’re going to cluck and if you hang out with eagles, you’re going to fly.”
The above quote is another way of saying that old proverb you’ve probably heard a few times before—“birds of a feather flock together.” The people you surround yourself with will inevitably have a huge influence on you; those people can either lift you up and help you to fulfill your vision and achieve your goals in life, or those people can be distracting or even detrimental to your wellbeing and progress towards your goals. We can’t always choose who we interact with in every circumstance; sometimes, family members or coworkers or other people in your life may not be as supportive or helpful as you would like. Sometimes they may be downright discouraging and difficult to interact with. But those difficult people don’t have to be the only people you interact with.
Don’t ever allow yourself to feel isolated or alone; if you catch yourself feeling lonely and discouraged as you struggle to achieve your goals, then it’s time to reach out to other like-minded people or groups who can give you the support you need—it’s time to find the eagles who can help you soar to great heights right along with them.
“When a person is accountable to someone else for doing what they said they would do, they get stuff done. They make changes they’ve been toying with for years. They reach their goals.
This is not surprising. After all, when we tell someone we’re going to do something, we engage the power of social expectations.”
—Shana Montesol Johnson (from Want to Achieve Your Goals? Make Yourself Accountable)
In the above blog post, Johnson writes about how creating accountability is one of the most important things you can do to help you achieve your goals—from her experience as a career coach, she says that the common thread that runs among all of her successful clients is that all of them have created accountability in some way to help them stick with their goals.
However, she also goes on to add that creating accountability in your life is more than just talking about what you want to achieve; it’s also about discussing concrete, specific actions you will take in order to reach those goals. This is where an accountability partner or group comes in—they can provide a place to check in, to make sure that you’ve actually done the work you need to do in a day or week.
“You will not experience dramatic change in your struggle as long as you use accountability to describe your sins instead of declaring your need for help in the midst of temptation.”
Recently, some research has shown that too much talking about your goals can actually hinder you in your progress toward achieving those goals. While some people have chosen to interpret this to mean that it’s best to keep your goals to yourself and to stay silent about them, we take the stance that talking about your goals with others is actually a great thing—but only when you take the next step from talking into actually doing. It’s not enough to just tell your accountability partner, “by this time next year I’m going to pay off all my debt!” — you have to actually make a plan for how to do it, and your accountability partner can help keep you on track in achieving those steps (in the case of this example, that might mean helping you to plan a budget, checking in occasionally to make sure you haven’t made any irresponsible or unnecessary purchases, etc).
Accountability partners can come from many sources: you can ask a friend or colleague, you can find accountability from a group you are in, or you can even turn to family (but this is usually a last resort as family members are often too close to you to call you out on your shit). When you set and announce a goal, working towards your success with a supportive team behind you, you are much more likely to stick to it and achieve it. So let’s talk about a few of the different ways that you are creating accountability in your daily life.
Mastermind groups are just what they sound like: a group of “mastermind” individuals who all gather together at set times in order to share ideas and hold each other accountable (whether in person or online). Theoretically, this group could be any number of individuals, though most mastermind groups are relatively small, perhaps 5-8 members, giving everyone an easy chance to contribute to discussions.
The key idea behind mastermind groups is that they should be a collection of like-minded individuals—i.e. people who are all working in the same field, at a similar business level or who all share some common goal or interest. In a typical mastermind group meeting, after everyone has had a chance to speak, people then usually take turns (from meeting to meeting) being in the “hot seat,” meaning that whoever has the “hot seat” in a meeting will be able to both share whatever has been particularly inspiring and helpful to them, as well as sharing any questions or struggles they may be having in a particular area (enabling them to seek advice and information from the other members of the mastermind group). This “hot seat” person is usually determined before the actual meeting, so that they are given time to prepare what they will talk about, and everyone in the group will eventually get a turn at being in the “hot seat.”
Mastermind groups are a great way to network with other people who are on the same page as you; they stem from the idea that “two [or more] heads are better than one.” When you listen to other entrepreneurs or business owners and hear about what works for them and what doesn’t, it can in turn spark your own creativity as you move forward with your own goals. And in turn, you may have that same inspiring effect on others!
Joining a mastermind group is a great way to work on creating mutual accountability. The routine of meeting at a set time and day, knowing that you have made a commitment to the group, helps you to stay motivated and far more likely to achieve your aim. There are many different mastermind groups out there, but if you can’t find a group that fits your specific niche, you can always start your own with other like-minded individuals!
One on One
“The only people that can ruin or make that relationship work are the two people in it”
Find someone to help you with your habits and goals. Similar outlooks and common interests may help; maybe you have the same habits you want to create or break. For example, when trying to start a new exercise routine, many people will find a “workout buddy” to help them stick to their goals and to provide that extra motivation to get up and actually go workout! Like everything there is even an App for this here. When you’re seeking accountability through a one-on-one partnership, it could take a variety of forms—in the case of the workout buddy, for example, you might have set times that you agree to go to the gym together, making it harder to bail on each other.
But if you’re trying to form a new habit, you don’t particularly have to do that specific activity together to hold yourselves accountable in completing the goals. It might be enough to send each other a message or phone call each day (or however frequently you need) to confirm that you’ve done what you needed to do that day. If we continue with the exercise example: I have heard of people training together for races when they actually live hours apart. In such a situation, it is of course impossible to actually work out together in the weeks leading up to the race. So instead they hold each other accountable just through messaging each other with regular updates on their workout progress that week. Here are the 4 quick recaps on what to look for.
No matter what goal you’re working towards, when you know that every week, you’re going to have to tell your accountability partner what you’ve done that week, it’s pretty embarrassing to have to report that you haven’t met your goals all week! Even from someone who’s physically far away from you, getting that reminder text from to actually get up and just go do what you need to do can help give you an extra push that you might not have on your own.
Check in daily/weekly or fortnightly to support and encourage each other – make it a routine and a priority or it will fall by the wayside. Having a set appointment with someone will make you more likely to actually stick to it; in many cases, it’s harder to cop out on a friend than to cop out on yourself. It’s even been suggested that an accountability partner can be a more useful and practical option than having a mentor.
Create rewards and punishment (but go easy on yourself)
“Never wake up waiting to hear a command from someone before you make a move; be responsible! Never repeat what made you to waste an hour of yesterday; be accountable!”
Although it’s great to have another person or group of people to serve as your accountability partners, the truth is that you can’t always count on others to be watching over you. You also have to learn how to be your own master and how to hold yourself to your own goals and actions. One way to do this is to set up a system of “rewards” and “punishments” for yourself. Reward yourself for the progress you made and set financial penalties for failure to achieve goals. You can set your own limits on this but make sure you stick to them – you are only cheating yourself if you don’t.
The rewards and punishment don’t have to be big or extreme—they can be pretty simple. Maybe you set a goal to meditate 3 times a week, and at the end of the month, when you’ve met that goal, you reward yourself with a gift to yourself such as a nice dinner out or a new item of clothing or something personal to you that helps you celebrate. Your reward might not even be monetary; to get homework done, college students often set up simple reward systems for themselves. 40 minutes spent on homework might earn you 10 minutes walking around, stretching, checking social media, etc. Of course, you want to make sure that your “reward” isn’t something that cancels out your hard work—don’t let your system turn into 10 minutes of work and 40 minutes of “reward” time!
If rewards don’t work, there’s always punishments—one somewhat extreme example is the punishment of donating to an “anti-charity” every time you fall short of a goal. The anti-charity should be a cause that you are passionately offended by. It might sound crazy, but knowing that skimping on your goals will mean that your money is going towards a cause you vehemently don’t support sure is one way to help you stick to your goals and plans!
For more ideas on how to take personal responsibility to keep yourself sticking to your goals, check out this short list from The Bamboo Project: 4 Ways to Hold Yourself Accountable for Achieving Your Goals. This article begins with the importance of creating an emotional connection to your goals, and includes practical suggestions such as emailing reminders to yourself about completing your achievements.
If you can think it, there’s probably an app for it—which means there’s plenty of apps out there to help you with creating accountability in your life! Some of these apps might be more personal while others might be designed to create interaction and accountability between multiple people.
Producteev, for example, is a fantastic app for entrepreneurs—it’s sort of like a to-do list, but much more than that; it enables multiple people to communicate about their work and progress on various projects, thus creating a platform to hold each other accountable and make sure that tasks get completed.
You can also use apps to help with your own personal accountability in a variety of ways, not just in business or work with others. For example, many people use budgeting apps like Wave to help track their own spending and hold themselves accountable to making and sticking to an appropriate budget.
Whether it’s money, work, or some other task, there’s probably an app out there that can help you stay accountable to completing the tasks you need to get done in your daily life. Entrepreneur Magazine has published a great list of 21 apps that can help boost productivity and accountability in your life and business—check it out for some more ideas on how to use apps to create accountability!
Circle of Trust
Find people that really have your best interest at heart. Tim Conely from The Forge advises that outside of your family and inner group of friends, most people don’t care whether you succeed or not until they choose to join your inner circle. Robert De Niro in Meet the Fockers called it the “Circle of Trust.” Outsiders will only care up to the point of your goals matching their self-interest. So look around at your current inner circle and see who within that group can help you with your accountability.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to find the accountability methods that work best for you and that will enable you to achieve your goals and dreams. Don’t ever be afraid to reach out to others and ask for help in reaching your goals—after all, that’s what a TEAM is all about: Together Everyone Achieves More!
In our next blog post, we’ll be talking about the “cadence of accountability”—the act of reviewing your goals, checking in on the tasks you’ve completed and the ones you haven’t to assess their worth and importance in your life—as well as checking in with your accountability team to make sure that you’re all on the same page and serving each other’s goals and needs.
“Let your life speak volumes holding your words accountable, lest you become just a talking head.”
― Sanjo Jendayi