Feet to the Fire: Keys to Personal Accountability

andrew-mirror-e1452990922179By now, close to a third of all New Year’s resolutions have been abandoned. Think about that. Millions of people announced an intention to make some kind of significant change in 2016; and less than three weeks later have walked away from that commitment. Is it any wonder that more and more people have decided to stop making resolutions altogether?

I guess some figure it’s just too hard to keep their resolutions. Losing weight sounds like a great idea, but when you really think about it, losing weight is not easy. It requires changing the way you think. It requires changing the way you act. It requires developing new habits. And change is very, very difficult.

But isn’t that the point? Aren’t resolutions supposed to be hard? Shouldn’t meaningful change come at a cost? After all, if it was really that easy to make significant changes to your daily life, you’d have already done it, right? There’d be no need to set some kind of goal for improvement.

We make resolutions in good faith. We set goals for ourselves with the most sincere of intentions. So many attempts at change fail though because we just don’t hold ourselves accountable. Starting a new routine tomorrow sounds great, but when tomorrow comes – with all of its unexpected twists and turns – the road isn’t as easy as we thought it would be and we give ourselves permission to back off. How can we hold our feet to the fire so that the meaningful change we desire takes root?

Renew your commitment to yourself.

  • Remind yourself why you set the goal in the first place. There’s a reason you identified this goal. Something happened that caused you to decide things had to be different. Hold on to that thought. Hold on to the emotions that welled up inside you and led you to declare that, going forward, your life would be different. Let those feelings propel you through the toughest parts of your transformation.
  • Give yourself permission to let other things take a back seat. One of the most common reasons for abandoning new routines in our life is lack of time. Guess what? That’s an excuse – nothing more, nothing less. We all have the same amount of time every day. We just choose to allocate it differently. Someone once said “I don’t have time” is another way of saying “That’s not important.” If you want something bad enough, you won’t have to find time for it. You’ll make time. Learn to let lesser things slide in pursuit of your identified priorities.
  • Write it down. Post it. Look at it. Commit to your goal in writing. Tape it to the bathroom mirror, the refrigerator, or the television. Make sure you can’t go a single day without being reminded of the commitment you made to yourself.

Create systems to hold yourself accountable.

  • Schedule it. Remember the SMART Goal filter? Conducted properly, that exercise will provide you with specific action steps to accomplish your goal. Now take those steps and identify exactly when and where you are going to take them. Write them on your desk calendar. Enter them into your smartphone. What gets scheduled gets done.
  • Create reminders. Now go back and set reminders to yourself so appointments don’t sneak up on you and catch you off guard. Set an alarm each night to remind you to pack the gym bag. Put a post-it note on the door to remind you to grab your lunch. Use texts and emails to stay on top off your new commitments.
  • Partner with others. One of the best ways to hold yourself accountable is to hold someone else accountable at the same time. Find someone who shares the same goal and work together. They say misery loves company. I say success is better when shared, and a little competition is good for the soul. Anyone want a Fitbit buddy?

Ask for accountability.

  • Tell others what you are doing. This time next year, people are going to expect Mark Zuckerberg to have delivered on his personal challenge to build an artificial intelligence system for his home. He publicly announced his intentions, essentially asking others to hold him accountable. A goal kept secret is easy to walk away from, but a public declaration invites accountability.
  • Give others permission to ask for updates. Having announced your goal to others, ask them to challenge you. Beg them to do it now, while your resolve is firmest. Share with them why this is important to you and request that they periodically check on your progress.
  • Welcome consequences. I define accountability as the application of both truth and consequences. Define some milestones and associate rewards (positive consequences) with reaching them. Identify some negative consequences with failure. We are naturally drawn to things we want and move away from things we don’t want. Use this basic instinct to your advantage and ask friends to help keep you honest.

Personal accountability is easy when the task is easy. Persevering in the face of obstacles requires discipline. Ultimately, you have to decide how you want to perceive yourself. Are you a champion, or an also-ran? Champions hold themselves accountable. They do what has to be done. If you want to be a champion, then be one. Don’t think about it. Don’t hope for it. Don’t wait for it to happen to you. Just be a champion. Do the things champions do – every day.


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