Traditional goal-setting doesn't actually work for the majority of people. Despite great intentions, most people aren't able to achieve what they set out to accomplish, and are left feeling like failures.
New Year's resolutions, in particular, are a major sticking point when it comes to goal-setting. Every year, about 60% of us make New Year's resolutions. Sadly, very few of us actually manage to keep them. Year in and year out, this cycle continues, leaving your dreams and goals lost in the lands of inconsistency and despair.
A study found that those who failed did one or more of these three things:
- Didn't even begin to make any changes.
- Were unable to achieve enough consistency with their goals to make lasting changes.
- Gave up before they ever made it to the six-month mark.
The same study confirmed that it takes an average person at least ten unsuccessful attempts at a resolution before they either give in, or they finally begin to make some changes!
Despite our best intentions, many of us lack the motivation and accountability to accomplish our resolutions.
Thankfully, there's undeniable evidence to suggest that adding accountability to your goal-setting can make all the difference to the chance of your success.
To clarify this point further, The American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) found the following in a recent study:
- 65% of their participants completed a goal if they asked someone to hold them accountable to their goals and fully committed to accomplishing their project with their accountability partner.
- 95% of people successfully met their goals when they did the above and attended a specific appointment with their accountability partner to discuss their progress and success.
The researchers in this study also highlighted the relationships between a specific action and the likelihood of accomplishing a goal through that action.
Here's a summary of the odds of you achieving a particular goal:
- 10% if all you have is an idea.
- 25% if you decide to take action on this goal.
- 40% if you have a deadline.
- 50% if you have a step-by-step plan for how to meet your goals.
- 65% if you commit to someone that you'll meet your goals.
- 95% (in other words, almost a done thing!) if you have a specific accountability appointment with an accountability partner.
So what is accountability?
Accountability is an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one's actions. So in the case of setting goals, the notion of accountability can be applied in two ways:
(1) Internal Accountability: That you, the goal setter, take your goals seriously and make yourself fully committed to them and accountable for them.
(2) External Accountability: Finding somebody, your accountability partner, responsible for holding you accountable to what you say you want to accomplish.
When you combine these two factors, your chances of achieving your goals increase dramatically.
Examples of accountability
(Example 1) Weight Watchers is a classic example of how accountability works. They serve as an accountability partner for their clients. Group members meet once per week for a weigh-in, and participate in group chat about how to keep up the weight loss.
The weekly weigh-in proves to be a great motivator for most Weight Watchers members and is a vital component to their long term weight-loss success.
(Example 2) A friend's weekly physio appointment to help heal her back ensured she did the necessary exercises to help her recover. If she didn't do what she needed to do, the physio would know from her results!
That was more of a motivator for her than the pain she was attempting to heal.
(Example 3) A novelist who has a hard time writing her 2000 words per day reports to an accountability partner daily. She updates her partner on her progress every day and then meets with them to review her work, discuss the challenges she's facing and ask for feedback every couple of weeks.
Developing an accountability mindset
An accountability mindset means always planning to find and commit to an accountability partner to accomplish any goal you have.
Perhaps you have a business or course to plan, but never seem to get it going for one reason or another.
Committing to the project with an accountability partner ensures you make this project a priority. And if an accountability partner is good at trouble-shooting and handing out advice, they may have some skills to help you push through any problems or obstacles you may encounter, problems that could otherwise make or break your commitment to the project.
Why having accountability works
So far, we can see that there's something in this whole 'accountability' idea. It works. But if like me, you need to know why it works you'll find plenty of reasons below.
Improved productivity and performance
Most people perform better under observation. It brings a sense of motivation that they may not experience when working on something alone.
Forces you to follow through and complete projects
Who wants to show up empty-handed to an appointment or discussion that focuses solely on the efforts you and you alone make?
Create deadlines for a sense of urgency
Have you ever noticed how when you've got lots to do, you seem to complete more tasks in a day? That's because the amount of tasks you have versus the time you have to complete them creates a motivational sense of urgency.
Setting deadlines with an accountability partner helps you make the most out of your time.
Record, measure and track results
Recording and measuring results with an accountability partner brings opportunities to reflect on your success and celebrate with someone, which in turn will help to motivate you when you experience challenges in the future.
It also helps you to create achievable milestones to give you something to aim for during a long-term project.
Get honest feedback
Accountability partners can give you feedback through all stages of your project. From the goal setting, through to the planning and the eventual execution.
A second opinion and honest feedback will always keep you from unconsciously wandering away from your goals. And may stop you from making the same mistakes repeatedly.
When to consider an accountability partner
You might consider an accountability partner if you:
- Want to get a business or work project off the ground.
- Would like to improve your fitness or lose weight.
- Are working on changing or building habits.
- Have any kind of goal you'd like to accomplish.
3 steps for how to establish accountability
Step 1: Commit
The first, and perhaps most crucial step in establishing accountability is to take it seriously.
Commit to your efforts and work diligently with your accountability partner. Respect their time and efforts and do the work.
If you don't, you'll fail.
It's important to remember that even with an accountability partner, if you choose not to do something, and don't commit, you won't succeed. You can't put that responsibility onto your accountability partner. They can't make you do anything you're not committed to do.
Step 2: Select a strong partner
Next, you'll need to select an accountability partner who is strong enough to give you honest feedback no matter how much it might 'hurt your feelings' or make you frustrated and angry.
A diligent and dogmatic accountability partner is vital to your success. You don't want a partner who will just let things slide. They need to push you through and keep you moving along the right path toward your goal.
Step 3: Discuss your goals
You'll need to discuss your goals with your partner. Tell them that they need to be firm with you no matter what excuse, delay or protest you come up with. And you need to respect that you've asked your partner to do this at the time when you wish you didn't!
Different types of accountability partners
As a general rule of thumb, different types of accountability partners will be suitable or different types of goals, choosing the right kind of accountability partner makes all the difference between success and failure.
Friends & family
You'll find friends and family to be great for helping you to keep focused on a short to mid-term goal, like adjusting habits, exercising or losing a few pounds in weight.
Unless you've got a strong-minded family member or one who is familiar with coaching, they may not be as firm with you or as focused on your goal as you might be.
You'll also need to consider that family relationship dynamics will unconsciously come into play in this partnership. If you tend to find your sibling a little too bossy for your taste and it triggers you - they probably aren't a good choice for an accountability partner.
The same applies if you feel you have to keep working hard to impress your parents. If you can relate, don't choose your parents as an accountability partner.
An accountability partner
An accountability partner is somebody who is also working on a goal.
They hold you accountable for your success and vice versa. The partnership works because you help each other break through the challenges you face with your goals.
The advantage of this type of partner is that they will understand the 'in's and out's' of accountability partnering and why you might do it.
They also have to face the highs and lows that come with attempting to reach your goals. And because they are interested in partnering in accountability, you'll be like-minded.
Things can go wrong, though, if your accountability partner loses their motivation.
Just watching them slide from their goals may cause you to let your motivation go too. And if your partner is sliding on their goals, chances are they won't continue to hold you accountable.
After all, how could they?
A coach / mentor
Coaches and mentors are probably the best types of accountability partners because there is no family or friendship dynamics to deal with, and no risk that they will give up on you or lose focus.
On the contrary, there's every chance that they'll keep you and your goals high up on their list of priorities. Because it's their job to do so!
Usually, coaches and mentors have a box of tricks to help you move through challenges and setbacks. And can talk you around if you have moments where you're ready to throw in the towel.
Creative ways to hold yourself accountable
- Announce your intentions on social media and ask others to check in with you.
- Use a journal to hold yourself accountable.
- Create macro-goals with your family.
- Use productivity and habit tracking apps.
Putting accountability to work
To make accountability work for you, there are four factors you'll need to consider to make it successful.
(1) Set up regular check-ins with your accountability partner
It's vital to your success that you organise regular check-ins no matter what approach to accountability you take. It's the most important part of the process. You will be guaranteed to veer off track without keeping note of the track you're on.
(2) Put structures and systems in place to get things done.
Organisation is key to accomplishing your goals. You won't progress without having systems, frameworks and structures in place. Make this part of the process by creating a milestone structure to track your success.
(3) Be prepared to be called out for making excuses
Heads up, when you're trying to get out of doing what you know you should be doing, you're going to do everything you can to avoid your accountability partner.
And a good accountability partner is going to call you out and push you to get what you need to do done.
Be prepared for this.
(4) Make your goals a priority.
Even with the best accountability coach on the planet if you don't prioritise the goals you're working on, they won't work out. Making them a priority is vital to your success.
Accountability is about getting clear on your priorities and being a support for yourself and others to getting things done. It's about being resolute with what you say you'd do, and being a witness to how your life is transformed as a result of your actions and decisions. Are you ready to change your life?