Over my lifetime, I have learned a lot about accountability. I’m sure we all have and I’m positive I still have a lot to learn. How do YOU view accountability and what do you use to keep yourself accountable?
We begin to learn about accountability early in life as our parents teach us that our every action provokes a reaction or a consequence. Teachers further this learning by providing us with assignments that have deadlines. Moving into adulthood, these deadlines and rules become even more significant. Somewhere throughout this journey, we may become the teachers or the ones that hold someone else accountable.
Today, I want to focus on our own self-accountability. Often times, when an outside source sets the goal, deadline, or assignment for us, it’s so much easier to stay on task because we do not want to disappoint that person, be that a parent, child, teacher, or supervisor etc.
I have been guilty, on many occasions, of breaking commitments to myself. For me, those are the easiest commitments to break. I can easily make internal justifications as to why I couldn’t complete the task and I never have to worry about having that uncomfortable conversation explaining myself. To others, I hold my word firmly. Why do I find it easier to break my word to myself? Shouldn’t my promises to me be my strongest commitments?
Recently, I’ve been working on placing the same level of importance on the promises, commitments or goals that I have for myself as I do for others. If I feel that I cannot come through on a commitment I’ve made to myself, I take time to breathe and evaluate if I’m trying to get out of something that was harder than I anticipated or if the commitment truly cannot be kept. Perhaps there could be a compromise as there would be with someone else – maybe I cannot meet the deadline I set for myself but with some focused effort, I can still accomplish the goal with an extension. If I find that I simply cannot keep the commitment, I do have that uncomfortable conversation with myself through writing or meditation. Someone is still getting disappointed by the expectation being met, she deserves the apology just the same as any other would deserve it.
What have I found in this recent practice? I found that I had a habit of putting my needs and desires at the bottom of my list and would move my personal to-do’s and obligations further down that list as I accepted new obligations. Would I treat a client, patient or a co-worker or my boss that way! Not a chance!
So what now? Now, I have to practice placing an appropriate level of importance on my self-commitments and hold myself accountable to ME as well. But how? Here are some tips to help you on your personal accountability journey:
- Don’t over commit – Before saying yes to yet another commitment, evaluate if you truly have the additional resources
- Be clear – commitments to both yourself and others can be better filled if the details are clear. What is to be done, and by when?
- Write it down – sometimes just the act of “penciling” yourself in helps you keep your focus
- Get outside help – in the beginning, you may have to recruit a friend or loved one to help. Not that the commitment is to them, but sometimes knowing that someone is aware of your goal and is going to ask you how your progress is coming along, is enough to keep the line moving in a positive direction. But don’t rely solely on someone else to keep you honest, that defeats the whole purpose.
- As always, Be Gentle with Yourself – you’ll make mistakes with this new practice as with anything else. Acknowledge where it went of course, and learn from each moment. Beating yourself up doesn’t help, keep moving forward.