Plenty of people set goals, but far fewer are actually willing to declare their goals in a way that sets them up for success. Simply thinking about goals won’t yield results. There is one critical component of bringing a desired goal to fruition: accountability.
Consider this scenario: Your alarm goes off at 5:30 a.m. It is your intention to go to the gym, but it’s raining outside, and your bed is extremely cozy. In which of the following situations are you more likely to actually make it to your workout?
- You have an exercise buddy who will be meeting you at the gym at 6:00.
- You didn’t tell anyone you were planning on exercising this morning, and no one but you will know if you hit snooze button three more times.
It’s a no-brainer. Obviously, you chose scenario #1 because someone is holding you accountable to your actions.
Studies have shown that when you share your goals with others, you are twice as likely to achieve them than if you keep the goals to yourself. For the same reason exercise buddies and personal trainers can help you to follow through on your workout goals, accountability when goal setting is one of the most crucial elements in your success.
What Is Accountability?
When it comes to goal setting, accountability means being held responsible for the achievement of your goals. The word sometimes has a negative connotation, as if accountability implies blame or judgment. However, when seen as a way of tracking success, accountability can create a sense of ownership and pride that often leads to great triumph, enhancing your ability to achieve your desired outcomes.
Why Accountability Works
When you hold yourself accountable to your goals, you are communicating to the universe (and to yourself) that the goal is a priority—it’s not just something that may or may not get done. If you don’t share your goals in some way, you aren’t truly committing to them. It’s too easy to give up because it’s like they never really existed.
Another reason accountability works is because it can motivate you to save face. It’s human nature to care about your reputation and to fulfill your loved ones’ expectations of you (Do they see you as a person with integrity or as someone who is flaky?). You also feel motivated to avoid being called out when you mess up. In the first scenario, the friend waiting in the parking lot of the gym is going to be pretty mad if you stand her up. On the other hand, if you pick the right type of accountability partner, they will actually encourage you when the going gets tough. Everyone needs a cheerleader sometimes to remind you of your potential for greatness.
5 Types of Accountability
There are many types of accountability, and depending on the type of goal you have and your unique personality, some will work better than others. Try out some or all of the following strategies:
1. Tell a Friend
Share your goals with someone who loves you, who will ask you about your goals, support you in achieving them, and celebrate with you when you do. Picking the right person is crucial though, because anyone who could potentially judge you or become overly competitive with your progress could actually sabotage your success. The ideal accountability partner is one who supports you and your goals completely and whole-heartedly.
2. Join an Accountability Group
Joining or creating an accountability group can help you accomplish what you often can’t do on your own. If you’ve ever participated in a book club, you know that gathering with others to discuss the latest novel makes it far more likely that you’ll find the time to read it. If you want to write more, for example, join a writing group that expects you to write 2,000 words a week.
Are you an amateur chef? Join a cooking group and support each other in trying seven new recipes a month. As a social creature, you can help others accomplish just about anything and vice versa. Look to your church community, workplace, or yoga studio for people who might be interested in joining forces, or on sites like Meet Up to find like-minded people who want to get together for motivation.
3. Use Your Technology
There are plenty of apps and websites that have been created specifically to help with accountability, by either offering reminders and tracking systems or by connecting you with other people who are also trying to complete similar goals. Sites like Mint (for money management) and apps like the Health App (to track nutrition, exercise, and mindfulness) are great tools for keeping track of your productivity. If you’d rather interact with other people, iDoneThis and the Whole Life Challenge bring people together virtually from all over the world in a network of support for goals of every size.
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4. Hire a Coach
The coaching business has increased in popularity lately, and for good reason. Coaches get paid to assist you in clarifying your goals, to hold you to a reasonable timeline, and to help develop strategies for overcoming obstacles that get in the way of achieving the final outcome (plus, you’re more likely to try to get your money’s worth if you’ve invested in someone to help you). One of the defining characteristics of coaching is that it creates a measuring tool for action and a means for reporting on self-learning. Good coaches never judge, scold, or blame; they simply help you realize what works and what doesn’t when it comes to the commitments you make to yourself.
5. Write It Down
For some people, simply writing their goals down on paper is enough to move the dream into reality. Written promises to yourself can strengthen the internal fortitude needed to complete a challenging task. Posting reminders and checklists in a visible location (like a daily planner, a wall calendar, or a note on the desktop of your computer) can be an effective motivator for follow-through.
So find a support system, hold yourself accountable, and see what happens. It could be just the thing you need to create positive change in your life.