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The value of accountability for achieving your goals

It’s that time of year, when most of us are reviewing the past year and anticipating what’s to come — full of goals and resolutions and hopes and dreams for the new year.

When I was in high school, I was involved in the youth group at our church, and one of the buzz phrases that was thrown around a lot was “accountability partner.” For everything from spiritual growth and purity to healthy eating and studying, the key to any change was having an accountability partner.

Looking back, that idea might have been a bit overplayed, but there are some very real benefits in choosing to be accountable to another person when setting and working toward a goal.

Benefits of accountability

1. A little friendly competition

If your “accountability partner” has set the same goal as you, a little bit of friendly competition can go a long way. Last year, some friends of ours both decided they wanted to lose weight. They created their own Biggest Loser competition, and the one who lost the highest percentage of weight at the end of 8 weeks was declared the winner. Knowing they were competing for a prize (even just the prize of being able to say “I won!”) helped them both stay on track and achieve their individual goals.

Photo by Lululemon Athletica

2. Encouragement to keep going

Sometimes we attach so much significance to achieving a goal that when we experience a setback — which is inevitable at some point along the way — we just throw our hands up in the air and decide that the goal isn’t worth pursuing after all. An outside party can encourage you during setbacks and plateaus or when you experience a lack of motivation, helping you look past the momentary failure to see the bigger goal.

3. An honest look

If an accountability partner is just patting you on the back or nodding their head when you make excuses, then they’re not really holding you accountable after all. An important part of being accountable to someone is giving them permission to be honest with you. They should be comfortable telling you when you’ve gotten off track or pointing out areas where you may want to focus more of your efforts.

4. Ideas and inspiration

Sometimes, you may look for someone who is more of a mentor than an accountability partner. If they’ve walked the road before you and achieved the goal you’re striving for, they can share ideas, tips and experiences that will help you along the way.

Finding accountability

When choosing an accountability partner, be sure you ask someone who is up to the challenge and who wants to invest in your life in this way. They should be willing to ask hard questions, check in with you regularly and remind you of your goals even when you don’t want to hear them.

Set aside time to meet and discuss your goals. Make sure the goals and milestones are clearly defined so that your accountability partner understands what you’re trying to accomplish as well as you do.

Finally, schedule regular appointments to check in, whether it’s over email, the telephone or in person. If possible, schedule these times in advance so that they’re not lost or forgotten in the busyness of everyday life.

At the end of the day, just knowing that someone is going to ask you how you’re doing with a goal or resolution can be the extra bit of motivation you need to stay on track.

Have you ever had an “accountability partner”? Do you think being held accountable would help you to reach your goals?

This post was first published on December 28, 2010.

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  1. Steph @ Problem Solvin Mom

    I definitely need some kind of accountability, though often it’s enough for me to commit to sharing my progress. For that reason, if there is something I really want to stay on track with, I blog about my journey.

    I love that you point out that we need to be willing to hear hard truths from an accountability partner. A strong relationship can be as or more important than shared goals.

  2. Nisha @Healthy Mom's Kitchen

    There are definitely some things that I enjoy doing so much more with a friend beside me! When I have a friend counting on me, I show up!

  3. Kate

    My college roommates and I were “accountability partners” through 2 years of college. We met once a week and discussed the our spiritual lives (God), romantic lives (guys), and our self-image (self). It was one of the most helpful things that kept me on track and emotionally balanced during some stressful years. We don’t do accountability anymore – and it’s something I definitely miss. I would recommend it to anyone!

  4. Alison @ Femita

    I think this whole idea of an accountability partner explains the success of online coaching programs and forums. They allow you to share your goals (whether they are personal, business or weight loss related) with other people who will motivate and inspire you, but will also give you a kick in the butt when needed.

  5. Jessica Washburn

    Accountability and committment haven’t ever really been my thing. I realize this is a big flaw and I’m trying each day to be better. I guess I’m my own worst critic so I’m pretty hard on myself, but it definitely helps to have an incouraging friend to keep me in check. Great post!

  6. Alok Appadurai

    The point about getting a mentor as an accountability partner is WELL-TAKEN! A mentor usually will have less trouble calling us out when we need that kick in the toosh. I just recently experienced this when I met with a mentor about a business concept I am working on. They shredded the idea, but mainly to make it stronger and hold me accountable to sniffing out the cracks in my concept instead of having blind faith. THAT is partnership to me! Constructive advice, support, and expectation!

  7. Liz

    As a coach, I can say that one of the things clients find most valuable about our relationship is the accountability. My clients come with a sense of where they want to go or what they want to do, and while I certainly might offer some suggestions, resources, alternatives they hadn’t though of, and ‘reality checks’, a bit piece of what I do is to take notes on what they say they are going to do, and then ask about it….
    So many times, just knowing that someone is going to check in with them means that they do the thing they wanted to do, but had been avoiding for whatever reason.
    And my favorite part is when they tell me, “I’m so glad I just went ahead and did it! It wasn’t nearly as hard/scary/terrible as I was imagining it would be.”
    Accountability gets things done!

  8. Katie @ Articles From Addington

    I think finding someone to work with throughout a goal is incredibly helpful, and makes the possibility of achievement much higher. I appreciated the suggestion of making appointments to check in with your mentor/partner. Life is busy, and this would really help both people keep their commitment. I wonder how this could be applied to improving a blog??

  9. Dominique

    Sometimes it is good to have a partner to keep one accountable for certain goals. I do have one in my good friend Van. We keep one another in check

  10. Prerna

    Awesome.. I’ve never had an accountability partner but now I think I’m going to find one. Especially since I have a list of goals for 2011 and most of them would benefit from having someone “competing” with me.
    Thanks for sharing this Mandi!

  11. Living the Balanced Life

    Accountability is huge and an big part of what I want to achieve eventually with my online blog/business. Accountablity coaching can help you get to where you want to go. In the meantime, there are options for blog challenges and forums everywhere! I myself am starting the 8 week Journey to Balance on my blog on Jan 2!

  12. Maryea {Happy Healthy Mama}

    I love the idea of having an accountability partner. Sometimes it’s difficult to put yourself out there, but doing so can really help you reach your goals. Great post!

  13. Farrukh

    I was always afraid to make new year’s resolutions as I was afraid that I could never keep them but this year I have made resolutions because I have found my accountability partner.

  14. Peter Stockwell@Fitness Blog

    This is particularly useful with weight loss. Losing weight by yourself can be a lonely business and it is easy to give up in despair. Find somebody to encourage you and celebrate success with you. But most important of all – set realistic goals.

  15. Katy

    Yes! An accountability partner is so helpful. In fact, the tagline for my blog is “measured, accountable, on track.”

    It sounds a little lonely, but for me the people who read my blog and my accountability partners. I find tracking food, exercise and habits the key to staying on track with goals and plans, and it’s so enjoyable to share the adventures along the way.

    Thanks for a great post!


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