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Accountability

“Life has a processional effect.  Changes lead to more changes. Growth leads to more growth.” Tony Robbins

“Happiness is not something ready-made.  It comes from your own actions.” The Dalai Lama

I like to think that I’m pretty strong willed.  If I set my mind to it, I can make things happen.  While I can point to instances in my life that back up that claim, I’ve come to realize that my chances of success go way up when I have more than my own willpower to lean on.  

Over the course of the last few months, I’ve detailed my own personal journey of becoming: weight loss, fitness, physical and mental health.  I’ve shared thoughts on what to drink, what to eat, how to exercise, and even where I find motivation.  And let’s be honest.  Getting this stuff right is not easy.  It’s hard-really hard. It’s why I’ve been overweight most of my life.  But it’s not impossible. More importantly, getting it right is worth it!  And it can’t happen overnight; there’s no quick fix.  

“If you stretch a rubberband farther than it can go, it will break and be done.  The painful ordeal ends quickly. However, if you pull the rubber band only as far as it will allow, then rest, and then pull it again, then rest, you can stretch it farther and farther each time without breaking it.” – Eric Davis, Navy Seal

Pushing those limits, making that constant, incremental stretch in our own life does require willpower.  It’s why we need a really solid, motivating why.  It’s also considerably easier when we’ve got someone (or many someone’s) in our corner; people that we can both gain accountability from and prove accountability to.  But who (or what) are we looking for?

I have three caveats for a solid accountability partner:

  • This partner has to care about me (has empathy)
  • This partner desires a similar outcome for him/herself as I do for myself
  • This partner is not afraid to call me out on my BS

If I can identify a partner who embodies one of these three characteristics, it probably won’t work.  Two of the three? We’ve got a chance. But if I can pinpoint an accountability partner that checks all the boxes??  That’s when magic can happen.

A Single Accountability Partner:

Find someone who checks the boxes.  I’ve done this in various aspects of life myself.  Want to lose weight? Identify someone who not only cares about you, but shares a common goal: he/she wants to lose weight too!  Schedule workouts together. Share your daily eating habits. Touch base regularly to keep each other on track. And most importantly: establish a culture in which failure is unacceptable!  When you eat an ice cream sundae that wasn’t on the meal plan, you don’t need a partner who says “At least you didn’t add caramel.” No, you need a partner who will hold you accountable, because it’s that level of accountability that’s going to make you think twice next time your drive past the ice cream stand.  Willpower is all good and well; but it’s easier to have willpower when you’re empowered by the idea that if you slip, you’ll be letting someone down!  

Accountability partners can be huge catalysts for growth in multiple areas of life, assuming of course, that you can identify the right partner.  While great partners can come in various shapes and sizes, a spouse or significant other can make an excellent partner, assuming he/she checks the second box.  It should be assumed that your spouse does, in fact, care for you. And those of us who are in a real relationship can universally agree that our spouse will not hesitate to call us on our BS!  By and large, big commitments are easier when the entire household is onboard – I touched on that in the What to Eat entry.

Group Accountability:

“The Strength of the wolf is in the pack…  The strength of the pack is in the wolf.” – The Jungle Book

There’s a ton of positive accountability available in groups.  I realized this in my own journey when challenged within my Mastermind to detail my eating habits for an entire day and share them, in real time, with the group.  Listen, I’m pretty proud of my daily habits – they’re intentional. By and large I’m very disciplined about these habits the vast majority of the time.  But there was no vast majority on my day to share. I was perfect. Why? Because people were watching. People that I care about. People that care about me.  People that, in many instances, shared similar goals. People who are not a bit afraid to call me out.  

That was one day.  Imagine having that level of accountability every day for a week.  A month. A year. It’s out there if you go looking for it. Mastermind groups, community groups, workout groups… They all serve a similar purpose, assuming that they check the boxes.

Artificial Accountability:

So what do you do if you don’t have an adequate partner to check the boxes?  What if you live in a rural area devoid of such groups? What if you can’t afford to join a workout group or a paid mastermind?  There are other effective options too. I refer to these are artificial, maybe even superficial; because they’re not real. But for most of us, artificial things can provide consequences that feel very real.

What other people think about us probably shouldn’t matter.  Yet, almost regardless of our self-esteem and sense of worth, the opinions of others do matter to most of us, at least on some level.  I can sit on my high horse and say that idea is petty (because at its core, it is), but I care about what people think of me. And even if lower my antenna to those emotions, I can guarantee you that I care about how my actions impact others: specifically my children.  And my employees/co-workers. And my customers. And any variety of people who look to model after me in some small shape or form (we are all mentors in some capacity). I take that responsibility seriously.  

It’s in this regard, that while I’m very weary of the impact that social media has in our lives, that I have to admit it can be a valuable tool.  If/when I post a regular workout photo, or a screenshare of my step log after a run, or a meal plan, guess what I’m really doing? I’m holding myself accountable to my online friends.  In some ways, this is even more powerful than a real-life accountability partner. Why? Because they don’t even have to call me out when I slip. I have this sense that they’re watching (whether they are or not), that they’re judging (which they most certainly are), and let’s be honest: I’m scared to death that someone, somewhere, knows I’ve failed.  So I keep posting away, even though my friends are sick and tired of seeing my posts. Because I’m holding myself accountable to this often unidentifiable need to prove my own worth. (OK, I don’t actually do this. I don’t share much about my personal life at all on social media. But I know lots of people who do; and I get it-the accountability is REAL – even though it isn’t!).

While I don’t typically use social media in this way, I’d be hypocritical if I didn’t emphasize the value in it.  I mean, I justify writing this blog as a way to help others who, like me, have struggled with health and wellness and are sick and tired of it: people who are primed to make a change.  And that’s true. What’s also true? This blog provides accountability for me. If I show up at the race track in a year and weigh in at 250 lbs., this is all transparent BS. That would allow you to model me in giving up on yourself.  I don’t want that, for me or for you. Simply penning this blog is a forcing mechanism for me.

Where do you find accountability?  Where can you find accountability? What forcing mechanisms can you employ to help you reach your goal of becoming the best version of yourself?  If you’re so inclined, share in the comments below.

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