Success in any endeavor is determined by your ability to stick with it. Right? The only way to fail is to give up. We can all set out with the best of intentions, whether it’s working toward a promotion, embarking on a healthier eating plan, or exercise regimen. But if you don’t stick to it and work at it daily, you’re unlikely to achieve your goals. In fact, you’re likely to be right back where you started. You may think you have all the answers, but if you find yourself recommitting to something over and over again… well maybe it’s time to adjust y0ur approach. If you keep ending up in the same place, something in your plan isn’t setting you up to maintain success. So how can you make sure you stick with it and achieve success?
Today’s word of the day is: accountability
noun ac·count·abil·i·ty \ə-ˌkau̇n-tə-ˈbi-lə-tē\
Definition: The quality or state of being accountable; especially: an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions
In the world of weight loss and healthy living, accountability is a seriously important concept. While I have my gripes with membership related programs where you count points while eating twinkies and pizza, they do get one thing right – the weekly meetings are a way for members to hold each other accountable. When you know you have to show up and discuss your eating and exercise habits with a group of peers, you’ll have that in the back of your mind when you walk past the candy bars at the grocery store. You’re more likely to keep on walking and less likely to pick one up. When you have to justify your decisions to someone other than yourself, you start to make better decisions. It’s motivating to know that you can walk in next week and celebrate walking past that candy bar.
Joining a support group where many people are going through the same program is a great way to be accountable. Sharing your goals with your friends and family helps to keep you accountable. Food journaling is a great tool to promote accountability. If you have to write down every single thing that goes in your mouth, you’re likely to think twice before shoving in a handful of crap! Having a private coach is certainly a good option as well. Aren’t you more likely to show up for your workout if someone is counting on you to be there? Having an accountability partner is like having a private coach except the cost of their expertise and guidance is just a little bit of time on both of your parts.
In the Ultimate Weight Loss program, I have an accountability partner, and I can’t stress enough how important this relationship has been to my success on the program. I check in with her every single day to share a brief report about how I’m doing. I check in when I’m struggling with something like an upcoming family event, a night out with friends to an old favorite restaurant, or maybe a vacation where I know I’ll face temptations. She helps me come up with a strategy to stick to my goals throughout these situations. In working with an accountability partner, these are some suggestions to ensure success:
- Find someone who shares your determination to succeed. You don’t have to have everything in common, but you do need to share this. You can be vastly different ages, working mothers or bachelors, living in Boston or Anchorage. In fact, sometimes someone who is quite different from you will have a fresh perspective with which to analyze a problem. Close friends, parents, spouses, and identical twins would not be good accountability partners. They’re too close to you and too concerned about hurting your feelings. If you really want someone to hold you accountable, you need to hear honesty.
- Discuss how you will communicate and how often. This is another big one. I utilize Facebook messenger with my partner because it works for both of us. If your partner prefers the phone and you prefer e-mail, that could be a tough partnership. If you’d like to check in every 24 hours and your partner is contacting you every 24 minutes, this could also be problematic. Talk about it up front to see if you can find time to check in with each other in a way that works best for both of you.
- Determine your goals and share them with your partner. Make sure you know what you’re trying to achieve – very specifically. “Getting Healthier” is not a goal. “Getting off my chronic medications in the next 6 months” is a goal. Goals must be measurable. You must be able to look at it objectively and evaluate your progress along the way. Make sure your partner knows what you’re working toward, and vice versa.
- Select a few small goals for every check-in. If you’re checking in daily, and you’re wanting to make sure you eat veggies for breakfast every day and walk at least 7000 steps, share that with your partner. When you check in and say you have only walked 5000 steps that day, your partner should be reminding you to get off your butt and get your steps in! Or at the very least, asking what you plan to do differently tomorrow to make it happen. If you’re working on weaning off baked goods, make that a daily check-in goal. These are your goals. There’s no right or wrong goals.
- Share your strongest personal motivations with each other. This is where an accountability partner takes on a very special role. You may not have even shared these motivations with other people, and that’s ok. Your accountability partner is your confidant and they need to know what drives you. If you’re setting out to get off your chronic medications, perhaps it’s because you don’t want to suffer the disease or early death that some of your loved ones have suffered. Or perhaps you have concerns about being able to see your small children or grandchildren grow up. Perhaps you’ve noticed your self-esteem took a nosedive when you gained excess weight. If you start to get off track, or you have a bad day here and there, a gentle reminder from your accountability partner can make a world of difference. Let’s face it, change can be hard. You need to set yourself up to succeed. Being reminded of what’s important to you can keep you strong in the toughest times.
- Above all, be honest. Your accountability partner is on your side. Be open, honest, and vulnerable. If you ate something that you later regretted, fess up! Get it off your chest, move on, and let someone help you come up with a strategy to prevent further regrets. Often times, we’re too close to our own situations to see things clearly. Your partner may pick up on patterns that are working for you and patterns that are detrimental. But they can’t help unless they’re informed. So help your partner help you – be honest.
In the end, the only one responsible for your health is you. However, this doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. There is a world of support out there ready and waiting for you to say “YES, I sure could use your help!” In the journey toward better health, we can all use a coach, a cheerleader, and a teammate. Seek out an accountability partner to help you on your way, and you’ll reap the benefits of helping someone else on their journey as well.
Have you worked with an accountability partner in the past? Are you currently working with one? What did you find most helpful about that relationship? Leave a reply to share your suggestions.