“People say they are going to change, but without accountability, they seldom do.”-Dr. David L Cook Click to tweet
One of the most important processes in life is goal-making. But more often than not, we fail to reach the goals we have set for ourselves. Today, I’ll share the ingredient most people miss when making goals.
As mid-March rolls around, reflect on the goals you created at the beginning of the year. How are you doing with those New Year’s resolutions and goals?
If you are like me, then you have already begun to fall behind in some of those areas. I know some among us have probably drifted back to old habits and given up on those new goals completely. Unfortunately, there’s more bad news before the good news: the old saying “it takes 21 days to create a habit” has been proven wrong. Now, researchers say it takes 66 days to develop new habits that last.
But I promised you some good news. There’s a missing ingredient to goal making and habit development that most people don’t talk about. This ingredient is the most significant factor in goal achievement. And it doesn’t cost anything other than a small amount of time.
That ingredient? Accountability.
The Power of Accountability
I realized the power of this ingredient about seven years ago. But this story began ten years ago, when I made the goal to start blogging. I was excited and eager like most of us are when we start something new. And so I started blogging: for a few months and then stopped blogging for nearly two years. What happened? Life got in the way. Other things became more of a priority, but most importantly, I lacked discipline and simply gave up. This pattern continued for nearly three years. I would start, then stop, then repeat the process. Finally, in 2012, I made a goal to write one blog post every week of an entire year. And guess what? I did it!
What changed? My motivation and eagerness were the same as before. The secret ingredient was accountability. You see, I told a friend of mine about my goal and asked if she would proofread my blogs. I can’t begin to tell you how much of a difference that simple request made. I had someone expecting me to send them a blog every week, which was the motivation I needed to accomplish this goal.
Pastor and author Craig Groeschel notes that, “Accountability closes the gap between intentions and actions”. It is the common denominator between success and accomplishment. Most of us don’t have the self-discipline on our own to accomplish some of those big goals. As Jesus said, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”. And guess what? It’s okay to admit weakness in this area. The sooner you recognize your need for accountability, the sooner you can create a plan that will get you back on track to accomplish those goals and develop new habits.
As you review your goals and habits, here are three important aspects of accountability you should think through:
The Right Person
The person you choose will make or break your accountability. You want this person to be more of a cheerleader than a critic. One of my first managers told me we should say five encouraging things for every one critique. That means 80% of our words should be encouraging. And this should be true for the person holding you accountable.
Besides being encouraging, you want this person to be firm. They don’t turn a blind eye when you have a moment of weakness, but they don’t beat you down for it. They bring it up in a gentle yet bold manner, reminding you of why you want to accomplish this goal and encouraging you to get back on track.
Finally, you want this person to be committed. This person won’t take this job lightly. They will make you a priority.
The Right Atmosphere
Every accountability relationship must have authenticity and vulnerability as its foundation. You must be willing to share your struggles with that person and give them permission to speak into your life, even when you don’t like it. You can learn more about the power of vulnerability here.
Some of you might remember Marion Jones. She was an Olympic gold medalist in the 2000 Sydney games who was caught using performance enhancing drugs, and even served jail time because she lied to Congress during her hearing. When asked what led her to break the rules, she replied, “I distanced myself from people who would give it to me straight and surrounded myself with people who would only pat me of the back if I won”. Her story is similar to the illustration of two lines separated by only one degree. Over time, the distance between the lines becomes greater.
We need people in our lives to help us make course corrections, so we can stay on track and accomplish those goals (you can learn more about how compassion can make us better at holding people accountable here).
The Right Time
The final thing aspect of accountability is consistency. You and the person holding you accountable need to make time for regular meetings to discuss your progress. One of the best ways to do this is to find a person with a shared goal. For example, if your goal was to work out each morning before work, you could find another person who wants to do this, then meet them at the gym each morning. Not wanting to let the other person down will be a huge motivator. If you can’t find someone with a shared interest, ask a friend to text you before and after the workout. Afterwards, text them to let them know how it went.
When pursuing a new goal, develop a community that provides accountability. Share your goals with your community and make them a part of your accountability team.
- Look over your goals or some areas that you lack discipline in.
- Focus on just one that you want to improve and get back on track. Then, find a person to hold you accountable.
- After about a month, choose another goal and do the same thing.
I’d also encourage you to share your goal with the Your Virtual Coach community by writing a comment on this page. That way, we can encourage each other in our goal making.