Being accountable is a proven way to help you succeed at the goals you have set yourself. Having someone that knows what you are trying to achieve – and is there to really help you reach those goals – can make all the difference to your success.

Personal Internal Accountability: Can you be your own cheerleader?

Do you regularly pour cold water on your own ideas or do you get caught up in the excitement and allow them to ignite? Are you quick to downplay your hopes, thinking of all the reasons why it won’t work or finding excuses as to why you can’t commit? Or are you full steam ahead, regardless of the outcome? Accepting personal responsibility for your actions is what defines personal accountability. Whilst it may be easy to blame external events or other people on the things that happen to you, it is crucial to recognise that you can choose to react to situations in a certain way. No-one can make you do anything you don’t want to do, nor should they influence your reactions.

Taking ownership of your actions and reactions can make a huge difference to how you view the world and the people who surround you. Personal accountability requires mindfulness, acceptance, honesty and courage. Until you stop “blaming” and take ownership, you will be likely to attribute positive events to pure “luck” and negative events to “why me?” thinking. Letting go of negativity and being accountable means that you are taking control of your life – and all the good and bad that goes with it. The future really is in your hands.

As Albert Einstein said; “Man must cease attributing his problems to his environment, and learn again to exercise his will – his personal responsibility”.

 Choosing an accountability partner:

Accountability is the key to good relationships. When you are accountable it means that you are taking responsibility for your part in the relationship. If both parties are being accountable, one may be working on changing their behaviour whilst the other may be working on managing their emotions better.

 The 4 Pillars of Accountability: (definitions from Webster’s Dictionary)

  • Responsibility – this is a duty that binds to the course of action
  • Answerability – being called to account, being answerable to the results of your endeavours
  • Trustworthiness – a personal trait of being worthy of trust and confidence
  • Liability – being legally bound to a debt or obligation

 Why is having an accountability partner so helpful?

  • Keeping you on track and not allowing you to get away with excuses is probably the top job of an accountability partner, but there are many other roles that they will play in helping you along your journey.
  • Having someone else that you can bounce ideas off is really useful. You might think something is a fantastic idea, but just getting another perspective can change how you see it, being able to perhaps view it a little more objectively.
  • It is so easy to lose momentum and motivation when you are going it alone. You may start off with boundless enthusiasm, but find yourself lacking a few weeks down the line – this is when an accountability partner can pick you back up and keep you going.
  • Upping the ante. When we are doing something in front of someone we tend to push ourselves harder – having an accountability partner could make you work harder than you would if you were alone, for example pushing for those last reps in the gym when you have a trainer there as opposed to perhaps giving up on your own and not striving to reach that last rep.
  • Feeling overwhelmed and thinking you may have bitten off more than you can chew can be a common occurrence when you are trying to juggle all the other things in life at the same time. Choosing to take on a new challenge may suddenly feel like the worst decision you have ever made. Having someone there to talk to and help work out solutions will feel like a blessing.
  • Sometimes it can be too easy to get distracted and lose focus on what your primary goal is – this is when an outside eye can pull you back in to what is important – reminding you why you started this journey and where you are trying to get to. Pulling things back into focus means that you will spend less time on the things that really don’t matter, and are not pertinent to your goal.
  • Being honest – even when it hurts to hear it! This is why a friend might not work as an accountability partner, because we are quite likely to take it more emotionally and as a personal affront. Honest feedback is important to help us to achieve better results. Whilst we might not want to hear it, it can be valuable information, and save us from venturing down the wrong path.
  • We all need cheering along during our journeys, and an accountability partner should do just that – giving you praise and encouragement on your progress and successes along the way. Celebrating each milestone with someone is a crucial part of appreciating just how far you have come.

Working towards a new goal can be an emotional rollercoaster – particularly when things aren’t quite going to plan. And we are all human – this happens to the best of us no matter how determined we may be. Having someone there to pick you up, dust you off and put you back together again will be invaluable at these times.

Having an accountability partner can also make your journey more fun! Sharing your dreams and aspirations with someone who really understands where you are coming from is a far happier place than trudging along by your lonesome.

When you are looking for an accountability partner, you need to be clear about what it is you really want from them – and also whether this is a two way street, in that you will also be providing support and motivation for their needs. This type of partnership often works best because you are both getting something out of the relationship, so it is less likely that one becomes resentful and “put upon”, even though they agreed to be a partner.

Decide what your values are – your partner probably needs to value the same things so that it feels like a good fit. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you will both be working towards the same goal however. One of you might have a fitness goal, getting stronger and fitter, whilst the other may be trying to change their eating habits. It may even be completely different goals. But your values should be aligned. This means things like being honest, being reliable, having good timekeeping skills.

So, on to practicalities. Who do you already know that might be willing to do this for you? The obvious choice may be a friend, or family member. However, depending on your relationship with them, it may be better if it isn’t! Whilst our friends and family may have our best interests at heart, it also may prove difficult for them to really spur you on and motivate you when you are most in need of it. Our friends often want to comply with how we are feeling and allow us a bit of self-indulgence. An accountability partner shouldn’t let you get away with it! Choosing a family member may also be fraught with tension if you are not truly on board with what they have to say – and vice versa. Friends and family can provide the most amazing support network – but conversely they can also sabotage your efforts. But if you have someone in your family that you really trust to be there for you, and whose opinion you respect, then this could work out really well.

Your accountability partner should be someone who is positive, determined, motivated and not afraid to be honest with you. They need to be reliable too. There is little point getting together with someone who constantly lets you down at the last minute. This will lead to immense frustration and the partnership is not likely to last long.

It can be helpful to join an online support group – these are often filled with people who share the same values and aspirations as you, and whilst you would get general support within this setting, you may be lucky enough to really gel with someone and partner up outside of the group.

Of course it is important to make sure that the partnership is a reciprocal proposition. Decide how you might be able to help them so that this is a win-win situation – you don’t want to be doing all the taking or it could end up as a resentful relationship. They may be looking to achieve a completely different goal to you, but still require someone to help keep them motivated. This will also provide some great insight for you too as helping others often results in being able to see ourselves in a different light. Being part of their journey will also bring an extra meaning into your life.

Make sure that you have an agreement with your accountability partner, a contract as such, even if it is not a formal one, so that you both feel secure in placing your trust in each other, making it harder to let each other down. Setting boundaries is really important for both of you. Knowing where you stand, and agreeing what is and what isn’t acceptable within this relationship, will be crucial for success.

Set regular days and times for chatting or meeting up with your partner. Will they be accompanying you to the gym, or offering support from a distance? It may be that you require a coach or personal trainer to act as your accountability partner – someone who can really help you to achieve realistic goals, create programs for you, and offer you regular assistance and motivation during your sessions.

When accountability partners can go wrong:

  • Finding you are incompatible – this can happen even with the greatest of friends. You are expecting a lot from each other and this may test the friendship a little too much. Bite the bullet – terminate the partnership so that you can keep the friendship. You’ll find another partner, and you probably value your friend too much to want to put it in jeopardy.
  • Finding that your schedules are both just too busy to be able to maintain the partner relationship.
  • If one is more accomplished and fitter than the other, this can potentially lead to tension and an imbalance in a fitness-related relationship. However, it CAN work well if you are prepared to either put more work in to help coach a less able partner or they are willing to do the same for you. But realistically you want to challenge each other, not enter into a coaching relationship, so finding someone who is at the same level, or slightly higher is more ideal.
  • If it is not a formal agreement then it can feel as though it is a favour, which might not suit a more result-driven personality. If you are really serious about your fitness goals, you may prefer to have a professional trainer as an accountability partner so that they will really push you to strive for more, and you feel more tied into the relationship. Paying for professional services gives us skin in the game, making us much more likely to stick to our goals.
  • Taking their feedback as a personal criticism. Remember you have asked for their input and, unless they are being obviously hurtful, constructive criticism is designed to help you progress. If you can’t accept their comments it may be time to either take a look at whether you really want an accountability partner, or if you need to change your reactions to the comments by taking them on board and making the improvements they have suggested.

There is no doubt that being accountable, both to yourself and to others, helps to make you stay the course. Take your time to try and find the right fit for you, be specific about the help and support you need and get yourself on track for success!

If you feel that regularly working out with a partner would be a great motivational help to you, consider signing up for my “Buddy Up” sessions, where you can experience personal training sessions with your partner, friend or family member. Split the cost and double your fun!

Who’s got your back?