How does the word “accountability” make you feel — honestly?
Does the word make you cringe and conjure up images of your manager hovering over your shoulder to ensure you get work done? Or do you get excited about how accountability can help you progress, reach new milestones, and accomplish your goals?
Accountability is the last step in our MVP plan for goal setting, distilled from the Goal Principles book (new edition coming soon!), and it’s the hardest part when it comes to achieving goals.
Yes, you read that right: Staying accountable to your goals is more difficult than working to achieve them.
Here’s why accountability can make all the difference in achieving your goals, plus how you can create it.
What Is Goal Accountability?
In essence, accountability is a commitment or readiness to accept responsibility and account for one’s actions. The key word in that definition is “actions.” Accountability creates structures that ensure you take action when you’re supposed to. You can plan and strategize for years, but without taking action, you’ll never get any results.
Accountability is necessary and effective in helping you achieve goals because of the human brain’s innate desire to conserve energy and pursue immediate gratification. Our brains are, to put it simply, wired for comfort, but this isn’t helpful if you’re trying to accomplish a goal that requires you to step outside your comfort zone. Accountability allows you to disrupt your brain’s natural tendencies so that you can take action on your goals.
Although we focus a lot on making plans, we know that taking action is equally, if not more, important. Many goal-setting techniques fall short on the accountability aspect, so let’s explore how you can set up accountability structures.
The 2 Types of Goal Accountability
There are two types of accountability you can use to reach your goals. Although they play different roles, you should understand how each works to create structure when pursuing a goal.
Internal Force Accountability
Internal force accountability means that we rely on the structures within us to take action. This is otherwise known as willpower. Though there’s a time and place to leverage willpower, you’ve probably experienced a failure of willpower at some point in your life.
That’s because internal motivation is limited, therefore it’s best utilized at the moment when you need to get a task done. When you need to stop scrolling on your phone, get up off the couch, or send an email, you’re using willpower.
It’s much easier to rely on willpower when you’ve set up other structures of accountability, however. This leads us to the second type of accountability…
External Force Accountability
External force accountability means outside forces are motivating you to take action. You’re either inspired to:
- Move towards a reward (pleasure)
- Move away from a consequence (pain)
External forces of accountability work well within a company or organizational setting. For example, when you join a company, you immediately begin to work within a managerial structure of accountability. The pain of letting other people down motivates you to get your tasks done. You get rewarded with a paycheck for taking action.
For personal and some professional goals, though, you’ll likely need to set up your own structures of external accountability.
8 Ways to Stay Accountable with Your Goals
Creating external forces of accountability will help you join the mere 8% of people who actually achieve the goals they set.
Here are some external accountability strategies Arootah uses to succeed:
- Public declaration: Many people achieve their goals by declaring them publicly. Social media makes it easy for you to tell your friends and followers about a goal you’re pursuing, and the pain of publicly missing your goal will drive you to achieve it.
- Competition: If you have a competitive side, find a way to be in competition with others in order to hit your goal. The will to win can serve as a source of inspiration for success.
- Friends or family: By asking a friend or loved one to be your accountability partner, you can stay accountable to your goals by spurring one another to success.
- Software/apps: Utilizing technology can help you bolster your external accountability. You can use a habit-tracking app, such as Arootah’s Habit Coach, which helps you to increase mindfulness of your habits and track progress towards your goals.
- Life coaching: For personal goals, hiring a life coach is one of the best ways to stay accountable. Not only can a coach support you in getting clarity and moving through obstacles, but you’ll be forced to report to someone about your progress. This is ideal external accountability.
- Health coaching: If your personal goal revolves around health or wellness, you may consider hiring a health coach. Not only will your coach serve as a source of accountability, they can support you with a strategy for breaking bad habits and building positive new habits.
- Executive coaching: If you’re a leader, you’re likely the person your colleagues and team members come to for accountability and guidance. By working with an executive coach, you can improve your actions and offer better guidance to others.
- Group coaching: Working alongside a group with other people trying to accomplish similar goals can provide a lot of external motivation and accountability. You may find yourself inspired and learn to take action from others who are goal-oriented.
With each action item on your plan, you’ll need to pick an external accountability strategy. With these accountability structures in place, finding the willpower to take action becomes much easier.
The Bottom Line
You can’t accomplish any goal if you don’t hold yourself accountable for taking action on it.
Establishing structures of accountability upfront will make it much easier for you to achieve your goal later. Looking for some support in achieving your goals and staying accountable to them in 2024? Learn about Arootah’s coaching program and discover how you can get started today.