Just about every person who says they want to improve something about their life starts off with great intentions, yet only a relatively small percentage of people actually follow through and experience the results they had hoped. Why do we regularly see such a low success rate, especially when you consider how important it is for people to lose weight, eat healthier, get in better shape, or complete important life tasks? Are these failures the result of poor motivation? Irrational and unrealistic goals? Or is it because of faulty strategy and game planning?
The common denominator to self-improvement
While it is true that when examining why some people succeed while others fail we must consider things like genetics and individual differences, you might be surprised to learn the one variable that may be most responsible when it comes to people reaching their goals. Specifically, I am talking about accountability. When we are accountable, whether to ourselves or another person who keeps a close watch over us (i.e. a personal trainer), we are significantly more likely to adhere to our goals and eventually meet them. Accountability is what keeps our focus sharp, motivation high, and resiliency strong. Interestingly, accountability can be experienced by having to answer to someone else, or it can be experienced by taking the time to write down goals and actively track progress. The key is to publicly state intentions so that you have to answer to yourself or someone else, and both approaches have consistently proven to be more effective than simply thinking about life changes you would like to make with little or no accountability.
The dangers of no accountability
Without someone checking in with you regularly, or you yourself having written goals that are visible to you on a daily basis, you run the great risk of taking days off, steering off course, and even self-sabotage. In these examples the lack of accountability makes it incredibly easy to cheat, and after the first short-cut it becomes even easier to continue missing your stated intentions. If you’re not counting calories, it’s easy to over-eat. If you’re not keeping a journal of your workout routine, it’s easy to cut your workout short — or not even go to the gym. If you’re trying to improve your grades at school, it’s easy to forget studying if you don’t have a study plan system in place. Basically what this means is that it’s simply not enough to say you want to do something, even if it truly is important to you, without having any accountability in place to keep your focus, motivation, and resiliency in place for success.
The many forms of accountability
The definition of accountability is an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility for one’s actions. Some people are quite good at self-motivation, and have developed their own systems for accountability. Other people struggle with will power and focus, and rely on others to help them stay on task. The good news is that there are many different ways to integrate elements of accountability into your life, including the following:
- Self accountability. People who routinely set and achieve goals on their own tend to do so by writing down specific, measurable, controllable goals, and they monitor their progress by keeping a running journal.
- Accountability with help from others. There are countless ways to get assistance when it comes to accountability, including the use of physical trainers, dieticians, tutors, and coaches to name a few.
- Accountability with help from technology. Don’t have the time or interest in receiving help from others? Today you can keep yourself on track with a number of technological offerings, including smart watches, fitbits, and online programs and prompts.
While it is not impossible to experience life success without accountability, it sure is a lot more challenging. When we have our own goals to observe, people to answer to, or even technology prompts that remind us of things, we are far, far more apt to stay on course toward our personal goals. Accountability might seem on the surface to be a relatively minor part of future growth and change, but it is often the single most important variable witnessed between those who do, and those who don’t.