Accountability. Ugh! Don’t you hate that word. It makes you think of the word “accountable” which makes you think of either sitting outside the principal’s office or those God-awful, old-school Weight Watchers weigh-ins. (I heard they have gotten better with those, though, so no shade on Weight Watchers!)
I wish there were a better name for it, but this is what we’ve got. So let’s talk about what it is, why you should care, and how to use it to get to where you want to be.
What the Hell is Accountability?
Accountability basically means being held responsible for the things you say you want to do. So many times you decide you want to do something, and you are really sincere and motivated – in that moment. But we don’t make plans. We don’t anticipate our challenges. Sometimes we don’t even know why we want to do certain things. And so life happens, as it usually does, and you don’t follow through. But it’s ok. Because nobody else knows about it, you didn’t write it down. So it’s not real, right?
This is why we need accountability. Accountability makes your goals real. Now if you are anything like me, that scares the shizznit out of you, and may be the reason you’re avoiding accountability. But here’s the deal: you’ve come this far. You’ve done a lot to get to a place of better health, a better life and, dare I suggest, happiness. Why not use all the tools at your disposal to get there.
Or let me put it another way.
You are putting together a table. Your really want and need a table. The table has a lot of screws that hold things together. Why in the world would you want to then put the table together with a hammer, when you have a screwdriver in your toolbox?
Yeah. That’s accountability. So let’s talk about it.
So Why Should I Even Care About Accountability?
Let’s start here. Because when you use a word like accountability, what people hear is judgment. Somebody is going to judge you for what you did (or didn’t) do. First things first: stop that thinking! It assumes you are going to fall short and if you assume from the start you’re going to fall short, guess what’s likely to happen? (Spoiler Alert #1: you’re probably going to fall short!)
Simply put: you should care about accountability because it will make you do the things you know you need to do to get where you want to be.
This works mainly because as long as you keep a goal in your head, it’s technically hypothetical.
- I’ll run a marathon…someday…
- I’ll get back to my healthy eating…on Monday…
- I’ll start working out again…this summer…
(Spoiler alert #2: Someday is never coming. Someday is a myth. It’s a lie. And lying is not nice!)
Now let’s go even deeper for a moment. If someday is never coming, why do you say that to yourself? Because as long as you are resolving to do something someday, you haven’t yet tried it. And if you haven’t yet tried it, you haven’t yet failed. And in your head you secretly believe failure is imminent if you actually do the thing you say you want to do. (Because, after, all, isn’t that how the universe works? Murphy’s Law, anyone?) So someday is good enough. Because in someday-land you came, you saw, you conquered. And that’s good enough for you. (By the way, I’d be remiss to point out that failure isn’t a bad thing! Here’s why.)
Except it isn’t! You deserve to feel the triumph of achieving the things you want to achieve. So let’s talk about how you use accountability to do that.
I’m going to go over three kinds of accountability you can practice. Spoiler Alert #3: Each one is going to be a bit scarier than the last. Be brave! We’re only learning at this point, k?
Accountability to Yourself
When folks practice accountability, this tends to be the kind they practice. Now I just got finished saying that when goals live inside our own heads, they are hypothetical. So what’s the difference between that and being accountable to yourself?
When you are accountable to yourself, you get your thoughts out of your head and onto paper (or onto a screen). For bonus points, you can do that in a system that will encourage you to keep up with it (like MyFitness Pal, where you can get badges for logging in every day).
But here’s the thing. Accountability has three parts:
- You have to “speak” (type, etc.) the thing you want to do.
- You have to attempt to do it.
- Then you have to report back on how it went.
So ideally, when you are being accountable to yourself, you’d profess what you want to do, you’d do it, and then you’d say you did it. When you are being accountable to yourself, nobody else has to see this. It’s your personal record.
And for some folks that’s enough to keep them on track. But for many of us, practicing this form of accountability just isn’t enough to keep our heads in the game. So let’s keep trucking forward!
Accountability to Another
This just means you’re sharing your goals with another person. Now this can take two forms:
- You can be accountable to someone who is not accountable to you. (For example, most of us hold ourselves accountable to our surgeons to lose weight. But our surgeons don’t have to lose weight and be accountable to us.)
- Or you can be accountable to someone who is also accountable to you. (Like a friend or a family member who is also working on a goal.)
Accountability to another works on one simple principle: We don’t like egg on our face. We don’t like to feel like we’ve failed or didn’t follow through. And when you have to report back to someone, you will probably feel like you failed or didn’t follow through if you didn’t at least attempt to do what you said you were going to do. That’s powerful. So let’s talk about these two types of relationships you can have.
When you are accountable to someone who is not accountable to you, sometimes there’s an imbalance of power. You don’t think of that person as being the same as you. Many times you think of them as an authority figure. So when you struggle, it’s really hard to feel ok going to them for help, because you’re afraid you may get reprimanded or judged harshly. In this type of relationship it’s important to ask for what you need in the way that you need it. Yes, even with doctors (and your boss!). Tell them what you respond well to and what what you don’t.
Being accountable to someone who is also accountable to you evens out the balance of power. So having a check-in buddy is great! But here’s the deal: they need to be working on something too. And you need to be prepared to hold them accountable just as much as you expect them to hold you accountable. You should still ask for what you need in the way that you need it. Ground rules are good! And then just go with it. You’ll be surprised how much more motivated you’ll be to follow through when you know you’ll be asked about it later.
Accountability Between Many
This means you are holding yourself accountable before more than one person.
Now before you walk the other way, hear me out. This isn’t nearly as intimidating as it sounds.
“Many” can be a group of folks you signed up to walk a 5k with. “Many” can be your friends on MyFitness Pal that you’ve formed into a group. I’d be remiss not to also point out that “many” can be your fellow members of the Foodie Nation Community! Members have plenty of opportunities to speak their goals and get encouragement! The big point is that you have a tribe of folks, all working on something, and you all hold each other accountable.
Now here’s the lie you are probably telling yourself that has kept you from taking part in accountability between many: “I don’t want to let anybody down.”
Bull-pucky! Stop that. Right now!
That statement is classic lack of confidence. And I get it. We’ve tried things and failed. And we don’t like how that feels so we’d do anything to avoid it. But here’s the truth, Ruth. I’d hope anything you join or subscribe to would be something you’ve looked into. And I’m assuming you’ve made sure it’s do-able. So you have ability. Now you just need the motivation and the stick-to-it-ness to do it.
And if you don’t do it, you may feel like you’ve let yourself down but that’s where your tribe is your safety net. They’ll help you learn from your mistakes and apply what you learned so you don’t make the same mistake again! How do I know? Because that’s naturally how good tribes work. 😉
The Secret Sauce
So let’s bring this on home. You want to achieve something. Losing 50 pounds. Running a half-marathon. Kicking the carbs. Whatever.
Want to make sure you stay on track? You need the secret sauce. So here it is.
Use all three of those methods of accountability to help you stay on course.
Find a way to hold yourself accountable to what you want to do. Find an accountability buddy to help keep you in check. And find a way to be accountable before many and draw on the experiences and wisdom they have to share.
Want instant access to the “secret sauce”? Join the Foodie Nation Community! Inside you’ll have the opportunity to hold yourself accountable in daily eating/exercise/vitamin check-ins, get an accountability buddy, and take part in community-wide challenges and activities designed to help make your healthy habits fun and do-able!
This article put a lot of things into prospective for me.. I NEED to be more accountable to MYSELF. I can be accountable to everyone else but at the end of the day it’s me that I needs that accountability… working on this right now.