Accountability Works

Aside from a few years in my early 20s, I’ve played team sports all of my life. There are many things I love about it but for me, knowing people are relying on me to do my part makes me show up.

Accountability is an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility for your actions. It’s doing your part to achieve a desired outcome, either as an individual or as part of a team.

Having played and worked on many different types of teams, the idea of doing my part to achieve a group goal isn’t new. What is newer is the idea of doing my part – that is, being accountable – to my own goals, and I’ve learned to do that by asking my friends and peers to form support teams to help me overcome the challenges that I’m facing.

It’s applying the team concept in a slightly different way. I still have to do my part, and I still have to show up.

For example:

  • I’ve exchanged a list of weekly goals by email with a friend.
  • I asked this same friend to text me in the morning during times when I’m struggling with insomnia to make sure I’m out of bed for work.
  • I still play team sports but to help me with my individual fitness goals, I’m involved with a Facebook challenge group that I check in with daily. When I don’t feel like working out, I post in this group for motivation and encouragement and pretty soon I’m getting demands for a sweaty selfie as proof that I did it.
  • To help me focus on nutrition and healthy eating, I became a coach with Beachbody to force myself to lead by example.
  • This week, I enlisted a few friends to help me tackle some challenges at work and they are – to their credit – checking in with me regularly.

Here’s why holding yourself accountable to others and involving them in your progress works.

  1. You have to talk about your problem out loud. Whatever it is you need help dealing with, chances are you’ve been pretending it doesn’t exist. Talking about it to others makes it real. It forces you to be honest with yourself and others, and it makes you face whatever it is you need to deal with.
  2. Once you’ve voiced it to yourself and others and it’s now a real live thing instead of something you can stuff into a drawer in the back of your mind, you start thinking about it in real terms. Gradually, it becomes less scary and once that happens, you can begin to deal with it.
  3. Involving others gives you access to people who have different experiences and expertise than you. You can get great advice and ideas that you may not have thought about and this can help you develop a plan to start dealing with your problem.
  4. Once you have a plan, you share it with your team. They then have something concrete to ask you about, and you have a guide to follow as you work to tackle your problem.
  5. You give others permission to hold you accountable. You have asked for their help, which means they get to ask you about this stuff and remind you about your goals. It forces you to keep focused on what you’re trying to do.
  6. If you fall, your team is there to encourage you to get back up and remind you why you started in the first place.
  7. When you succeed, you have a group of happy supporters who will help celebrate your accomplishments. And that feels pretty great.

Holding yourself accountable to others means taking action to do your part, whether it’s as member of a team or as an individual. It makes taking responsibility for your actions. It means being fully honest with yourself, and asking the people in your life for help.

It’s not always easy but holding yourself accountable for your actions and the decisions that you make helps you take charge of your life. It’s a process that makes you stronger.