Many people consider accountability as a holy grail of habit-building. I agree that it’s a powerful tool, yet I don’t emphasize it as much, because self-discipline means self-reliance. I want you to be a light unto yourself and depend on nobody. To be someone others can depend on for motivation, inspiration, and support. To be an example of Mindful Self-Discipline in this world of distractions.
By all means, do make use of accountability. The only thing I emphasize is that you make it a supplement to your practice of the three pillars, and not a replacement for it.
There are three types of accountability.
Community means being in a group of people with similar goals or habits, and it taps the power of social expectations. Surrounded by people on the same journey, doing the same things, it becomes much easier to remain motivated and to keep your aspirations alive—whether you want to stop drinking, get fit, start a business, or build a meditation practice.
Those in the community who have already achieved the goal show you what’s possible and inspire you. Those who haven’t yet achieved it may show you different things: that the process takes time and perseverance, that you can be grateful for your progress so far, and that it’s okay to fail and start over.
An accountability partner is someone on a journey similar to yours who is honest and uncompromising—with him or herself and in feedback to you. Your mutual goal with each other should not be niceness, but effectiveness.
Begin by establishing guidelines for communication—the mode, the frequency, and the feedback. Here is a sample protocol:
My goal is to run outside for half an hour every day; or at least to do 10 minutes on the treadmill. It’s a Never Zero goal, so there are no excuses for skipping. Every night I will message you saying when and how I did the exercise. Please always reply, even with just an emoji, so I know you are there.
If I don’t check-in, please message me and ask what happened. If I give excuses, remind me of my aspiration, remind me of my aspiration and why it’s so important for me.
Your accountability partner would then share his/her goals, communication plan, and expectations of you. You decide on a start date and then get to work!
A coach or mentor is the most powerful form of accountability, for a couple of reasons. First, a coach is a professional accountability partner who can challenge you, teach you tools to overcome your challenges, and support you effectively. Second, coaching usually involves a considerable financial investment, and this act of “sacrifice”—your offering—further strengthens your commitment to your goals and aspirations, increasing your likelihood of success. I see this happening all the time with my clients.
Ambitious people, even those on top of their fields, often use coaches to accelerate their process. Harvey McKay, who authored seven New York Times bestsellers, has had twenty coaches—a speech coach, a writing coach, a humor coach, etc. A good coach is a mirror reflecting you clearly so you stay true to your ideals; s/he will notice your negative scripts and proactively help you course correct.
Which form of accountability would suit you best? If you resonate with Mindful Self-Discipline and are interested in coaching, you can learn more about my work here.