“Always be accountable to yourself and take complete responsibility for your own life. Nobody can do as much for you, as you can do for yourself.”
James A. Murphy
I remember the first time I entered a “Greatest Loser Challenge” at work. I paid my $20, and was certain that the competition and the weekly weigh-ins would hold me accountable for actually losing some of the weight that I had accumulated over the years. That first time, I did see some progress, and I relished in the positive attention that I received. However, I returned to my old habits at the end of the challenge, regaining all the weight.
So I enlisted other people to hold me accountable. I got my husband on board, and he prepared me meals and reminded me to count calories. I shared my daily food dairy with a group of mothers from an online forum. I was going to do this!
Then things got stressful at work. I was at my wits end, so I ordered myself a pizza for lunch and didn't let my accountability buddies know. In fact, I began reporting to them less and less. When they asked how I was doing, I became secretly resentful, which led to more sneaking.
As the stress accumulated in my personal life, I began to let go of the weight loss and focus on making other changes. What if I found peace within myself? Maybe if I established a daily meditation routine, I would stop self-medicating with food.
So I found some more accountability partners. I wanted to start a morning routine, so it would make sense that I began my morning by writing to a couple of like-minded online buddies. This worked well the first few times, but again, as life became stressful, I kept the e-mailing but got rid of the meditating. And when my friends did not write back, the e-mailing and early rising stopped as well.
In frustration, I finally hired a life coach to help me make these changes I was trying to make in my life. I figured that she would help me to get motivated and consistently hold me accountable. I wanted someone to take me through a personal growth boot camp, where no excuses were tolerated.
So imagine my surprise when my coach directed me away from accountability partners, and away from other people's expectations. What were MY goals? What did I really want, and what “goals” were just things that I thought other people wanted me to do? And what roadblocks were standing between me and the changes I wanted to make?
Through working with my coach, I learned to become my own accountability partner. Suddenly, there were no excuses. I could not lie to myself. If I wasn't meeting my goals, I was forced to look at the reasons, and to discover (and meet!) the unmet need within myself that was leading to this.
My journey was filled with honestly, with non-judging self-reflection, and it became devoid of resentment. My progress no longer hinged on the expectations and approval of others. Becoming my own accountability partner was ultimately an act of self-love and understanding.
In the end, I found ways to calm my mind and weather the storms of life. Having a strict meditation routine was no longer necessary, but using meditation when I needed it became the norm. I discovered my patterns of over-eating and trying to feel safe and loved through food, which led to a very slow, but sustainable weight loss. Being accountable to myself became far more effective and longer-lasting thanand “challenge.”
Are you interested in becoming your own accountability partner? Here are some tips, to get you started:
1. Set concrete, specific goals. Then ask yourself WHY you have set those goals.
No personal growth journey can begin without goals. What is it that you want to achieve? And why is it that you want to achieve that? Really ask yourself what it is that YOU want. If you are doing something only to please others or to meet their expectations, with will probably not succeed.
2. List everything you need in order to meet those goals. Focus on what you WILL do, not what you will not do.
I wanted to lose weight. In order to do this, I needed to discover the role that food was fulfilling in my life, which turned out to be self-love, self-care, and stress management. So my goals were to love myself, care for myself, and learn positive ways to deal with stress. Staying focused on the positive will keep you from being punitive or deprived-feeling.
3. Keep a structured journal, focused on your goals.
My attempts at journaling were a journey. At first, I did a “brain dump,” where I wrote freely. I found that this simply indulged my fears and allowed them to grown and escalate. So instead, I kept my writing focused on my goals. I noticed that I began each day by going over what I did “wrong” the day before. So, my journal entries always began with a list of 5 things I did “right” the previous day.
I noticed the needs that I was seeking to have met by others, and I turned those into journaling goals for myself. I observed that I was absolutely addicted to attention, validation, and understanding from those around me, so at the end of each day, I wrote about the ways in which I had shown those three things to myself.
4. Ditch the timetable.
Understand that the mind does not quickly change habits, and that your progress will likely be slower than you expect. I quickly learned to be patient with myself. There were times I thought I “should” be at a certain point, but then I asked who said that I “should” be there. There are no arbitrary rules. Any movement in the right direction is a good thing. I learned to notice and celebrate the baby-steps. It is through taking small steps that lasting change happens.
5. Use the resources at your disposal.
In my case, hiring a life coach was the one step that allowed me to focus and get started being accountable to myself. This is an excellent option, but there are also countless websites, books, and other resources available to help you. No matter what it is that you are trying to change, someone has been there before. Learn from what they have learned, and allow their wisdom to guide you on your own journey.
Would you like help holding yourself accountable while you make positive changes in your life? Consider a confidential, low-cost e-mail, chat or video session.