Can we talk about accountability?
At the beginning of each year, we set New Year’s resolutions. These laundry lists of to-do, to-fix, to-achieve aren’t limited to just New Year’s resolutions. We set them on our birthdays too. Sometimes we set goals and resolutions subconsciously; not thinking too much about them and yet desiring more for ourselves. When we don’t attach these resolutions to new years or birthdays, we set ultimatums with statements like “These are the things I need to do before the age of 25 or 30 or 35 or 40.”
But how often do we think about holding ourselves accountable?
How often do we take stock?
How often do we do progress reports for our own goals or resolutions?
We apply more structure to our businesses and employers than we do to our personal lives and goals. In our businesses and careers, SMART (specific, measurable, attainable/achievable, realistic, timebound) goals are set, carry out monitoring and evaluation and write reports in which we suggest what to do better in the next month or quarter.
To achieve growth in any part of your life, you might have to treat yourself like a company that does all the above. That’s part of accountability.
Accountability is the ability to objectively take stock into how our actions either supported or affected our ability to achieve our goals. It’s realising that you are responsible for the outcomes in your life and taking steps towards keeping commitments you make to yourself.
Why is accountability important?
Sue has two friends: Maggy and Mary. She makes a promise to Maggy and follows through in a timely manner and even goes over and above what was expected of her. But when she made a promise to Mary, she didn’t follow through. She made excuses as to why she wasn’t available and got angry when confronted. What message does this send to Maggy and Mary about their place in Sue’s life?
We often treat our family and friends like Sue treated Maggy and treat ourselves like Sue treated Mary. The message we tell our bodies, our souls and our minds is that we aren’t as important as everyone else. We tell ourselves that we are less worthy and less deserving.
Besides affirming to ourselves that we are also worth as much effort, time and dedication as we give to other people, accountability keeps us on track towards achieving our goals.
Accountability vs self-reproach
What we are advocating for is accountability and not self-reproach. Going down the road of blaming and bashing yourself for not achieving your goals is not part of accountability. Self-reproach or self-blame will nothing but spiral you into a place of helplessness and hopelessness. Beating yourself down doesn’t serve you. It leaves you down instead of lifting you up.
Bashing yourself by saying, “See! You couldn’t get that job. Why didn’t you apply for an entry position instead? You are not that talented.”
Accountability on the other hand is firm yet gentle. It’s a tool that tells you, “We aimed for the moon and missed but we got off the ground and that’s progress. What should we do better next time?”
How poor accountability shows up in our lives
You aren’t hitting your goals. You’re stuck in the same place with the same relationship, same career, same mindset, same eating habits but subconsciously you want something different, something better. Yet every time you think about how you need to make a shift, you convince yourself that the status quo is fine. You tell yourself that this is safe. It’s comfortable.
Maybe you’ve noticed that alcohol is becoming a problem but you’re still singing the “I’m a hard guy” song.
Maybe you’ve realized that your job is not fulfilling anymore but you’ve bought into the “there are no jobs” slogan.
Maybe you’ve observed some red flags in your relationship but “I can’t leave and throw away 5 years of my life” keeps resounding in your mind.
Being in denial only keeps you in the same place. You’ll only notice months or years later that you had so many missed opportunities to make the shift you desired for your life.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Albert Einstein.
Change is difficult and it’s scary. But on the other side, you’re likely to find peace, fulfillment and health. So why not try it.
Wake up each day ready to challenge yourself for your own sake.
Blaming everyone else
One of your goals is to reduce your alcohol intake. You have friends who enjoy their liquor. Whenever you want to spend time with them, you all gravitate towards a bar.
Poor accountability for your goal of reducing your alcohol intake is blaming your friends for your habits. But was it by force? No!
“When you deny personal responsibility, you deny yourself the power to change your life.”
Poor accountability is like deliberately walking into a snake pit with angry serpents hissing at you and being surprised that they bit you and twisted themselves around your body.
Reclaim the responsibility for your life.
You have the right to say no. You have the right to choose what your life looks like. You have the right to hang onto your dreams or goals even though it seems too out-of-the-box for some people.
Change is difficult but you have the right to it.
“This is how things have always been.”
“You're dreaming too big.”
“That’s not how things work.”
“Nagundi with all her brains and connections failed. What makes you think you can succeed?”
There’s too much that’s said to us or about us that puts us in a box. People say things that make us feel like we can’t reach our goals. Sometimes the helplessness is internal.
Maybe it’s your socio-economic status, your education background, your physical appearance.
But how does remaining hopeless serve you? How does it serve your future?
Make the change. Break out the box.
Steps to take to improve your sense of accountability:
“It is one thing to be a dreamer or a visionary. It’s another thing to be a completer.” Dr. Thema
Seek clarity in what you are trying to do or achieve. Seek clarity in why this is a goal.
Write it down so you can always remember why you started.
While you’re at it, ensure to make your goals SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timebound.
Goals like “I want to be healthier” are vague.
There are varied types of health: sexual, spiritual, nutritional, physical, financial, mental, what health. Be specific.
If it’s nutritional health you’re after, how will it measure it? By how much more plant-based foods you eat or by how much less processed foods you consume?
Can you realistically achieve this goal within the time you’ve set for yourself? If yes, what needs to change in your current routine to make it happen.
Flesh your goal out. What does it look like? What does it feel like?
Then start with what you have and keep going.
“It is possible for me.”
Remind yourself of your capacity.
Whether a goal is new or something you used to engage in but fell off the wagon, remind yourself that you have the capacity to get it done.
Think of something that you were able to achieve that amazed you. It can be as big as starting a new business or career or as small as keeping a plant alive.
Use that same energy, that energy that affirms that you can get things done when actualizing a new goal.
“When I surrender in my mind then my behavior or actions have already been surrendered” Dr. Thema.
Tell yourself, I have achieved goals before and I can do it again.
Small steps towards your goals are important. It’s important to make goals attainable. Big jumps sometimes stretch us too thin and you’re likely to lose gas quickly.
If your goal is to set up a YouTube channel, start with using your camera phone, doing practice runs in your mirror, before jumping into expensive camera equipment.
Timing and scheduling
Is your goal a daily practice? If so, when is it scheduled, in the mornings or in the evenings? If it’s monthly, how often? Set a schedule and stick to it as much as you can. In the event that you skip a day or month, take note of what happened on that day so you can keep an eye on the variables that cause your shift off course.
Be watchful of what you consume
When you’ve just started a new goal or routine, you are especially fragile. This is a good time to surround yourself with inspiration and encouragement to boost the right mindset shifts.
“Sometimes saving yourself means letting go of your pride and asking for a helping hand.”
Some people need a watchful eye over them. Maybe that’s you. an accountability partner can be anyone: a friend, a mentor, an intimate partner, spouse or even an app.
They may or may not have the same goals but their main purpose is to keep checking in on you to stick to what you said you would do.
Monitor your progress
Accountability is nothing without M&E. You have to be able to evaluate yourself and your activities either daily, weekly or monthly. A journal or specialised app can help you stay on track. It doesn’t even have to be fancy. It can be an exercise book or a word document.
You can keep a nutrition journal to help take note of what you have been consuming. You can keep a haircare journal to take note of how you’re caring for your hair.
Structure your time or your life
Don’t start watching a movie at 8.30 p.m. yet your goal is to be in bed by 9.00 p.m.
Don’t go to the bar if you’re working on your alcohol intake.
Don’t double-book appointments if you’re working on your time management skills.
Create simple structures and boundaries that will promote your goals.
Doing what you said you would do to achieve your goals is hard work. Go ahead and reward yourself when you actually do it. They make you feel good and are a form of encouragement to keep going.
“Honour your life,
cherish your dream.
Shine your light,
don’t let it dim.”