If You’re Having Trouble Holding Yourself Accountable, Find Someone Who Will!!

I have a good friend we’ll call ‘Tommy’ who, not too long ago ended a very tumultuous relationship after a couple years of dating.  His girlfriend was a lying, manipulative psychopath who treated him badly most of the time, but after they finally broke up, he was so bent out of shape that he couldn’t even eat.  She had cheated for the second time that he knew of and he was finally done with her.

Now I know what you’re thinking: he was better off without her as soon as she was out of the picture and the sooner he moved on the better – and you’d be absolutely correct in that assessment.  This is entirely uncharacteristic of Tommy – he is the type who’d fight and die for any one of his friends on any given day; an ex-college lineman who was the coolest guy imaginable to everyone he was around – but he was definitely not one to cross.  But, as tough of a guy as Tommy is, he also knows how to treat a lady.

It was this that killed him inside.  He treated her well and tried to make her happy – but in the end the relationship ended as those types of relationships do.  Alas, as miserable as Tommy was without her, he knew deep down that she was a toxic person in his life and that he was better off.

Tommy knew she’d come calling back sooner or later.  So he did something smart:  right after the break up he told all of his friends and family about what a bitch his ex-girlfriend had turned out to be.

You see, he knew that eventually she would want him back after a couple weeks.  And sure enough, she did start calling after she realized that he wasn’t going to.  And Tommy knew the temptation to take her back would be tremendous – despite how bad he knew she was for him – but if there’s one thing Tommy has more of than anyone else I know, it’s pride.  And he certainly wouldn’t want to face his friends and family if he took her back despite all the bad things that had occurred between them.Tommy wasn’t looking for sympathy, nor was he trying to vent about what a bad person she was.  Tommy opened up for one reason: accountability.

Pete Brand, another good friend of mine and co-founder of Mindscape at Hanon McKendry, had this to say on his blog recently:

“Most people are afraid to tell anyone what they are looking to accomplish because they are afraid either:

1.  The person they tell will laugh at them and tell them they can’t.

2.  They don’t believe they’ll follow through with their statement.

The bottom line is they are afraid of failing and being mocked for doing so.  It is one thing to keep your plans private and be accountable to yourself.  It is a completely different story to surround yourself with positive people who will encourage you once you’ve announced your goals and plans.  The only trick is to have the ability to find those positive people, and as we’ve pointed out, that can prove itself to be quite a challenge with all the negativity in the world.”

There’s a lot of wisdom in Pete’s words.  How many times have you looked in the mirror and wished the person you saw was 20, or 40, or 100 pounds lighter?  When was the last time you worked on that novel you’ve been writing?  How long has that blanket you’ve been crocheting been cast aside half-finished?  Whatever your aspirations, I am sure you are sacrificing some of them and not achieving all you strive for (unless your name is Tim Ferriss), largely in part due to lack of personal accountability.

Several years ago, Steve Pavlina wrote a post on his blog titled, “Your Personal Accountability System”.  He says:

Systems trump intentions.

Without some systematized method of daily accountability, the natural result will be to stray off course. Then at the end of the year, you look back and say, “If only…” In order to prevent that yearly “if only,” you have to squeeze that annual accountability down into each and every day. When you look back on your day and see you goofed, you can immediately regroup and recommit to doing a better job the next day. Better to do this every single day instead of “going dark” and then being painfully surprised at the end of the year. Purposeful transformation is better than tragic realization.

Talking about your goals and ambitions isn’t easy.  There’s a difference between being driven and being a dreamer – and fear of failure is amplified when everyone you’ve told will know of your failures if you are unsuccessful.  It’s one thing to keep your desires to yourself and simply continue to hope and dream when they aren’t realized.  But when people know, people who are positive and encouraging and selflessly want and are willing to help you to succeed, it changes things.

“There’s not a lack of good ideas, only a lack of follow-through.”

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