A couple of years ago, after I’d lost all my weight and had been actively writing and talking about it, one of the bloggers who I have known for many years messaged me.
She wanted me to be her accountability partner.
I was elated and felt honoured by her request. Without a second thought, I agreed.
The catch was, we were located in different continents and had night and day differences in our lifestyles and time zones.
It implied all our communication was online.
It wasn’t a big deal because, for an introvert like me, it felt more doable than meeting every day in person.
She picked up a few ideas from my posts on weight loss, started food journaling and also started working out every day.
All was well until the 3rd or perhaps the 4th week.
That’s when for the first time, slowly teeny-tiny excuses around work being demanding and life being its unpredictable self started creeping in.
She gradually started taking longer than usual in replying to my messages.
And before long, I noticed she started avoiding me.
It was subtle in the start but soon became clear as day.
In a couple of months, things went so awkward that today we are no longer in touch.
It was a painful experience. This episode made me reflect, look for answers to understand why losing weight is so difficult and disturbing for so many of us.
I’d be honest, I dearly wish to help my blogger friend lose weight and feel amazing in her body like myself. But, the desire to transform should come from within a person. It can neither be forced nor transferred by any means.
It pains me immensely to have lost a friend simply because she started associating me as a reminder of her need to lose weight.
This incident shaped the course of my life in many ways.
From my failures and struggles as a single parent, the one thing I have clearly understood is, no amount of punishment or nagging can force us to achieve a lasting change.
Transformations require enabling a person to learn the skills, adopt new habits to achieve sustainable success.
That’s why I chose to not press my friend into doing anything she wasn’t ready to do.
Nevertheless, I got curious to explore what is it that I can do to help people achieve the same success with weight loss and healthy living that I have created for myself.
If you are someone who has been-
- struggling to stay committed to the promises you’ve made towards your healthy existence.
- buckling down under the pressure of harnessing will-power to keep investing consistent effort
You’re going to get a clear understanding of how accountability works and what are your options if you want to make the shift towards the life of your dreams.
The problem begins when something similar happens in our journey towards our goals and at the very first hiccup, we start questioning our capabilities. In no time our mind is flooded with past failures, and we start labelling ourselves as losers or too lazy to accomplish BIG (which is the code word for impossible) goals.
Or worse, we think it’s a personality flaw. We are simply not cut out to be the person who loses all their weight or who can achieve big results in their life.
What is accountability?
According to the dictionary, accountability is defined as :
“the quality or state of being in an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions.“
Simply put, it means that we take responsibility for our words, actions and outcomes by doing what we tell ourselves we will do.
However, it is key to understand what it doesn’t mean.
Accountability doesn’t mean that you simply take the blame when something you promised isn’t delivered. That is a simple confession.
Accountability calls for delivering on a commitment with the responsibility to an outcome, not just a set of tasks.
It’s taking the initiative with a thoughtful, planned follow-through.
From my experience, I have learnt that getting angry with people (children and adults alike) when they fall short is not a productive process for holding people accountable.
Penalties and punishments work in law enforcement but aren’t quite successful in changing people’s behaviour when we are talking about achieving life goals.
Punishment almost always reduces motivation and performance while pushing people towards rebelling, getting resentful and doing things sneakily.
What are the types of accountability?
Accountability is of two types:
- Personal Accountability – Where we hold ourselves accountable.
- Accountability to others – Where we involve other people like our friends, family or a coach to keep us committed and doing the things we promised to do.
Irrespective of the type of accountability, achieving long-term success demands CLARITY on the following 6 areas:
- Clear Expectations:
Setting unrealistic goals is the easiest way to set ourselves for failure. It means being clear about the outcome you’re looking for, how you’ll measure success, and how you should go about achieving the objective.
A rule of thumb that I follow in clarifying my goals is to look back and see my performance in the past. How have I fared when setting a similar goal. If you’ve managed to lose 2 pounds per month in the past, setting a goal to lose 5 pounds in this month might not be a good move.
2. Clear Capability:
Do you have the skillset needed to achieve the goals?
For instance, if your goal is to lose 10 kg, do you have a clear understanding of nutrition, physiology of the human body and the tools to help you overcome the roadblocks in your weight loss journey.
It is common to state the abundant resources available on the Internet as your go-to option to make up for the lack of skills. Though the key question to ask is,
Are you willing to invest the time, effort and emotional energy the repeated trial and error in sifting through the information overload demands?
If not, it might be helpful to consider outsourcing the learning to a coach. A weight loss coach can help you steer clear of the confusing information, offering a customised action plan that shall make it streamlined for you to take action and start seeing results from the get-go.
3. Clear Measurement:
Having the end goal in mind even when it is a clear number like a goal weight is not enough to get us the desired results.
Have a habit tracker in place that measures every small step of your system to allow room for improvement and constant motivation because you have a measurable, precise system in place.
Set clear, objective weekly or monthly targets. If any of these targets slip, you have your habit tracker to give you the needed clues to what needs a fix or if a redesign of the schedule might be helpful.
4. Clear System:
Having a well-defined system ensures smooth functioning even on the days we are low on motivation or energy.
The key is to make the new habit be associated with an old well-established habit. For instance, if you’re a coffee drinker, you might start doing the stretches while waiting for your coffee to brew in the morning.
A clear system makes doing the tasks effortless and a no-brainer. To make that happen, we need to have a system in place.
For instance, if you have a health goal to do 30 minutes of yoga every day before work, you’re far more likely to succeed when your workout gear is set out, a yoga mat is easily accessible (or even better, set up the night before), and you have your program or videos ready to follow.
You can even take this a step further and create a permanent workout space that simply needs you to show up.
5. Clear Feedback:
Honest, open, ongoing feedback is critical. This is a key step where involving a friend, a group or a coach becomes valuable. Clear feedback can save us a lot of time and grief by course correction every time we lose momentum or sight of the big picture.
Clear, honest feedback helps us know where we stand. When we have clear expectations, capability, and measurement, the feedback can be fact-based and easy to deliver.
Simply put it shall clearly define whether we are delivering on our commitments or not and if not, what can be done about it.
6. Clear Rewards:
Our brain loves being rewarded and this is the reason why rewarding someone for fulfilling their promises and commitments is a great way to enforce those habits in the long run.
For instance – if losing weight is your goal, following your food and fitness plan can be rewarded with a round of self-applause or appreciation from the coach or a checkmark against the tasks done daily. Rewards don’t always need to be material objects or food and drink.
We keep saying that I’m just going to read the right articles or I’m going to read the right books or I’m just going to join the right program and then I’m going to transform.
We just have to be curious right now as to why our brain thinks that accountability is a thing outside of us.
We can view accountability as something that we offer for ourselves and we practice or something that has to happen when all the planets and stars align to bless us.
Personal accountability is about eliminating blame, complaining, and procrastination.
When we point fingers looking for “whodunit,” when we lament about our situation and what people are doing to us, and when we delay our own contribution while waiting for others to act, we are not putting personal accountability into action.Everyone seems to agree on the need for personal accountability, but no one knows what to do about it
Key signs that you’re running from personal accountability
In case you are unsure if you are or are not holding yourself accountable I’d like to offer to look for these accountability killers in your behaviour:
Imagine, you’ve set a health goal of losing 10 kg weight. You start on the 1st day of a new month. You have a plan for eating healthy meals and including movement in your daily routine. You feel motivated and are doing great for the first two weeks and then gradually your habit tracker shows you are losing the steam to follow your plan.
You wonder what’s wrong.
You blame it on life getting in the way. You feel you’re tired of will-powering your way through life and eventually, you convince yourself that weight loss is too hard, every time you try it, you regain all the lost weight and some. So you decide that losing weight isn’t your cup of tea.
Something similar to what happened with my blogger pal.
If you can relate to the above story, I’d like to invite you to check out for the possible signs:
- Justifying behaviours: In the above example notice how the person shifts blame of their inaction on life and past failures. This is a red flag for lack of personal accountability. It happens most often when our thoughts and actions aren’t aligned.
- Talking ourselves out of things: Notice the stories our brain comes up with to soften the blow and to shift accountability to the general perception that weight loss is hard and most of the times anyone trying it fails at it.
- Playing the victim: This is the most common and the biggest red flag. Blaming everything and everyone but ourselves for failure or us quitting is a practice that is a sign we lack personal accountability.
- Claiming partial responsibility but not all.
- Softening the blow by minimising our wants, desires or the importance of the goal.
- Shifting focus to something else and pretending that is the real issue.
- Comparing ourselves to others and trying to show it is not an accountability issue but that the goal is actually impossible to achieve.
What to do if personal accountability isn’t your strength?
If personal accountability has been the pitfall in you achieving your goals, consider outsourcing it to someone else.
A friend or a coach.
Having someone always watching us can be immensely helpful in keeping us accountable.
The key benefits of having an accountability partner:
- It will make you more likely to achieve your goal.
- There will always be someone or a group of people checking in on you and progress while keeping you motivated all along.
- There’s someone who has your back when the going gets tough. Someone who is either on the same journey or has walked the walk before you. Someone to guide and empathise with when the journey gets tough.
- It expands your resources with a wealth of diverse personal experiences.
- They are a constant source of motivation and support when you need them the most.
- There’s a potential to cultivate long-lasting friendships because of shared dreams, goals and struggles.
- An accountability partner can help simplify difficulties and struggles. They offer encouragement, resources and support when hardships and roadblocks like a weight loss plateau strike.
Why is seeking accountability and not giving up on our goals and dreams so valuable?
The obvious reason is it enhances our life experience.
However, there is more to it that makes investing in accountability so worth it.
- It boosts self-worth: Working on our wants, desires and dreams and staying committed to gifting ourselves the joy of achieving the goals we set for ourselves is a great way to boost self-worth. The joy of keeping the promises we make to ourselves. The pleasure of not quitting on ourselves when the going gets tough.
- We take more action: Every success propels us in the direction of setting newer goals and crushing them. Accountability can be the difference that can change the course of our lives from being ordinary to extraordinary and exemplary.
- Everyone trusts us more: And it is not just others, but we trust ourselves more once we start fulfilling the promises we make with ourselves.
- Our relationships improve: Our relationship with everyone around us improve as soon as we start implementing practising accountability. The best part is our most important relationship, the one we have with ourselves improves boosting our self-esteem by notches.
We always think the answer is outside of us.
“I just got to find the right program”
“I just need to find the right coach”
“I’m waiting to find the right book”
“I’m just going to watch the right videos on YouTube”
And THEN I’m going to transform.
We just need to be curious about why our brain thinks that the solution, the accountability is something that lies outside of us.
What someone else creates for us as opposed to accountability is something I offer myself.
That I practice with myself.
We need to be asking ourselves and being curious as to why can’t I be accountable to myself?
And what’s fascinating is that when we do that we discover that sometimes we hold ourselves accountable to the nth degree, sometimes we force ourselves to do the thing even when it is not good for me, even when it is not good for my body, even when I need to rest, even when I need to stop.
AND then you might discover that if we don’t do it, we aren’t all that nice to ourselves.
The conflict starts when we see ourselves asking, am I going to push myself too far and not listen to my body and on the other side, if we ignore our body and follow through then all that negative brain chatter starts pouring in.
“You’re wasting your money, you’re wasting your time, why you’re doing this because you never follow through, why can’t you get your act together.”
So are the two things.
It’s very hard to hold ourselves accountable when on either end we are setting ourselves up for suffering.
And that’s exactly the work.
I teach this work in my coaching program, Be Healthy Be You.
A weight loss and accountability partner is a tremendously valuable resource!
Aside from you taking action toward eating healthy and being more active, this could be your most valuable asset.
They increase your motivation.
They call you out when you hide behind justifications or excuses.
They provide you with information for success.
They offer support during difficult times, and
They walk beside you throughout your weight loss journey.
And the best part is that you can decide what you want in an accountability partner.
In the Be Healthy Be You program, I offer individual coaching with a hands-on approach allowing my clients to change a behaviour or master a skill by practising what they have learned in a safe, judgement-free environment, where their confidence can grow and they can receive in-the-moment coaching with weekly live calls and daily check-ins.
This is an application only program. To learn more please apply here.
Be in charge of your weight loss. Take ownership of your health without falling for fad diets and exercise routines you don’t want to follow.