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Have you ever made a list of goals and thought to yourself, “Tomorrow morning, I’m going to wake up and get started!”
But tomorrow morning comes, and you think, “I’m going to sleep a bit longer, after all rest is important, right?”
So, you rest and finally start your day. Then, just as you’re going to go to the gym, a friend calls and asks to get together, and you think, “Why not? Social interactions and fun are important parts of living a healthy lifestyle, right?” You set out with your friend and you start giving in to things that you are enjoying but know aren’t the “best” choices, as well.
Your desire to start fresh “tomorrow” has come and gone and you wake up the next morning thinking — why can’t I just make myself do what I need to do, especially when I want to do better?
You are not alone.
There are many people who can relate to this conundrum and there are many reasons why motivation wanes and those good intentions fade:
- You don’t feel the pressure of a deadline.
- You aren’t really clear on what you need to do to get the results you want.
- You may not even know what you want or there could be so many things you want to accomplish that you don’t know where to start.
The possibilities are endless. However, one thing is for sure — whatever you decide to think and however you decide to act will incur consequences. Therefore, you need to hold yourself accountable for the decisions you make. That’s where it all starts.
You have to be willing to take responsibility for your actions.
If that sounds too overwhelming, here are a few strategies you can follow to hold yourself accountable — these will help you frame your objectives positively, implement a plan, and work toward success.
Step 1: Adjust Your Attitude
We do not live in an ideal world, there are rarely perfect circumstances, and many things are not in our control. That being said, you still have the ability to make the best decisions possible within your given circumstances and focus on the things you can control to make the best choices possible.
This begins by adjusting your attitude from a woe is me type of perspective to an I have the power mindset. To do this, you have to acknowledge and accept the following:
- Every choice has a consequence.
- Long-lasting change comes from long-term effort.
- Stumbling and erring are part of the process, not an end to the work.
- I need to be brave and face my truths, which sometimes means answering tough questions about who I am, what actions I take, and what I am willing (and not willing) to sacrifice.
- Investing in myself is important and worth the time, money, and effort as needed.
Your Homework: Read each one of these statements aloud, starting each one by saying, “I acknowledge and accept that…”
Step 2: Write Things Down
Once you have decided you are worth the effort and you are committed to doing the work, you have to figure out exactly what it is you want to achieve. You cannot hold yourself accountable if you do not know what your objectives are.
Taking the time to explicitly describe what you want to accomplish has an impact on how you approach tasks. Having a general goal in mind is not enough. Writing down a vague target is also not enough. You need to put pen to paper and see your thoughts and ideas on a page.
Here are a few things you can write down that will help you hold yourself accountable:
- Your goals – What do you want to accomplish, why is it important to you, how is your life affected by not accomplishing these goals, how do you plan on achieving them, what steps will you take, what potential obstacles do you foresee and how do you think you can overcome them. Be as detailed as possible.
- Make promises to yourself – Think about it, if you are not willing to keep promises to yourself, then why should anyone else? Come up with a few promises that embody the type of character you want to represent. I promise to try my best. I promise to finish what I started. I promise to take care of myself. When you read these promises, they should make you feel like you are giving yourself a big, warm hug. Be your own biggest supporter!
- Quotations that motivate you – Think about who inspires you or what words speak to you and make you feel invincible. Write these down and post them in places where you can see them often to remind you that you have big goals and you need to stay the course in order to achieve them.
- Your schedule – Do you get out of bed and just start your day without a plan? Even if you have a few anchor points to your routine, such as leaving the house at a particular time each morning, having a better map of your day can help keep you hold yourself accountable. If you know you want to meditate, exercise, and cook each day but have no specifically allocated time to get those tasks done, chances are they will not happen. Creating a calendar in which you schedule tasks that are necessary to help you accomplish your goals is a very helpful step in making sure you do the things you need to do in order to get the results you want to get.
- Your general habits – Do you ever feel like you don’t have enough time or that you really don’t eat that much? I definitely do. However, I experienced a rude awakening when I started to track my productivity. I was shocked at how much time I spent on my phone. There is no reason I should spend five hours each day on my phone, especially not when I feel stressed about getting in ten minutes of mobility practice! Tracking your habits (in detail) for a week can help you become aware of how you spend your time. You can then use this to restructure your actions. The same thing goes for tracking your food. It’s amazing how quickly calories add up, whether healthy or not. Accountability starts with awareness, so take the time to develop that awareness of what you typically do and then tweak your habits.
- Check in periodically. Once you have written down your goals and created a good schedule for yourself, reflect on how things are going every two weeks. Are you making progress? Are there things that need to be adjusted? Simply planning and even implementing that plan isn’t enough in terms of reaching your goals. You need to keep evaluating how your efforts are paying off. The last thing you want is to continue down a route that is not getting you where you want to be. Practice being honest with yourself and examine your habits with a critical eye but practice self-compassion as well. This is a learning process, so allow yourself to learn and progress. So, get your calendar and schedule an appointment with yourself every two weeks to check in with how things have been going and change whatever needs to be adjusted for the weeks ahead.
Step 3: Create a Strategy
Hopefully taking the time to write down what you want to achieve will give you an idea of what you need to do to support yourself in reaching your goals. Now it’s time to put things into action.
Before you get right to it, take a moment to think of what stands in your way and come up with some strategies to help you overcome or bypass those situations. Here are some common ones:
- Combating procrastination – Our mind is designed to try to distract us. Whether it is by suggesting we are hungry when we are not or tempting you to check your phone even though you have no notifications, there are always distractions that can block you from doing what you need to get done. Take some time to figure out your biggest distractions and come up with strategies to bypass them. For example, if you are distracted by your phone, keep it in another room and set your timer for one hour. When the alarm sounds, you can check your phone. Only you know what keeps you from being productive — own up to that and figure out how to eliminate or at least decrease those distractions.
- Handling obstacles and temptations. Identify what interferes with your discipline and eliminate or at least minimize them. If snacking on high-calorie foods is a temptation for you, do not bring them into the house. If chatting with co-workers reduces your productivity, close your office door or find a quieter space to work. Do what you can to support your productivity and growth.
- Reframing negative or challenging thoughts and situations. How you choose to phrase things can make all the difference with your approach and commitment to engaging with your work. Instead of thinking, “I can’t,” replace those words with, “I’ll try.” Instead of ending your day focusing on the two or three things that might have gone wrong, reflect on the things that went right. The words and perspectives you choose are in your control, so take advantage of that and create a positive and encouraging mindset.
Step 4: Ask for Help
Ultimately, you are the only one who can be held accountable for the choices you make. However, that does not mean others cannot support you and help you work toward your goals. Asking for help is not always easy but surrounding yourself with people who have your best interests at heart can give you a boost in morale and help keep you going when you feel like giving up. Here’s what you can do:
- Find your tribe. Find people who share your goals and connect with them. Whether it is through a social media group, a group class at your gym, or your friend circle, when you surround yourself with people who share your perspective and attitude, it can help you stay on track and provide you with support if needed.
- Refer to experts. Reading books related to your field of interest can help you broaden your knowledge and even reinforce your motivation behind why you have chosen the goals you have. Consulting and referring to experts can also inspire you and guide you to stay on track and stick with your written plan.
- Learn to communicate. If you find you are stuck, instead of holding it all in and feeling isolated, learn how to communicate with others. It is not just about asking for help. It is about learning to articulate exactly what you need to help you work toward your targets. When you can specify and explain what it is you need help with, you further engage with your work and this helps you hold yourself accountable.
- Find an accountability buddy. Having a support team is great but having a specific person who you can share goals with and call on when you are struggling can really Moreover, if you know that you will also be supporting them, you are more likely to stick to your plan.
- Work with a trainer. I know that having a personal trainer or fitness coach can seem like a luxury, but sometimes if you find yourself in a rut and you’re not sure how to work your way out, a personal trainer or a coach can help. Even if it is just for a few sessions, having someone else listen to you talk about your situation and struggles and then advise you specifically on what can help you can indeed be really helpful.
Take Charge and Hold Yourself Accountable
Looking at all the points above may feel like you have a daunting task ahead of you, but the truth is big goals and objectives often are daunting. If they were something you could easily accomplish overnight, then you wouldn’t have to worry about how to stay accountable, you would just get it done.
Most of us have long-term goals and visions that we want to work toward but struggle in the day-to-day habits that can get us there. Hopefully these steps can help ease some of that struggle.
The bottom line is, no matter how many motivational posts, self-help books, or informational articles you read, you have to do the work. You have to hold yourself accountable for the choices you make and the consequences they bring. While there are some instances where things are out of your control, how you respond to those circumstances and how you decide to approach all the other situations that are in your control is entirely up to you.
While this may feel like a burden at first, I encourage you to look at this is as source of power. You are able to change so many things — embrace it, work with it, and allow yourself to succeed.