Keep Yourself Accountable To Stay On Track


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Tuesday, March 26, 2024
A chalk figure climbs a staircase- "What's Next?" is written on the top step

When the time has come where we set our minds to doing something, we need the right tools in our toolbox. Motivation, patience, endurance, planning: these are all important qualities to cultivate. An essential tool in that box is accountability. Whether you’re looking to graduate from school, learn skills to help you advance in your career, lose weight, master a new language, or play a musical instrument, you have to be accountable. Accountability is both personal and communal. You have to be responsible and honest with yourself AND with the people around you. 

If you’re looking to make changes in your life, you need to make sure accountability is a part of your toolbox. Read on as we break down why being accountable is so important.

Honesty is Key

It is very hard to make any real progress if you lie to yourself. An important part of making changes in your life is being able to be honest with yourself about what you want, where you’re at in your development, and what’s holding you back. If you ignore harsh truths about yourself or what you’re trying to accomplish, you’re holding yourself back. In order to truly be accountable to yourself and to others, you have to be honest.

Admitting to your shortcomings can be hard. It’s embarrassing to own up to one’s failures. But if you lie about your progress you won’t be able to see the best way forward, and any mentorship or guidance you receive from others will be useless because they don’t have an accurate picture of what’s going on with you. 

Take Criticisms

Another thing people rarely enjoy is getting negative feedback. Receiving critiques is part of what it means to be accountable. If you can’t receive well-intentioned and/or constructive feedback from people you respect, you’re not going to get far in this world. That doesn’t mean you have to take ALL criticism with grace; if someone is trying to be malicious or toxic or offer very bad advice, you don’t have to give it the due consideration you’d extend to someone offering you reasonable advice with good faith.

One way to help yourself take advice and criticism without being reactive is to reframe it. Don’t take criticism as an attack on you. They don't value judgments or verdicts on your worthiness as a human being. In most cases, people are trying to help you. You may disagree with their perspective or the kind of help they’re offering but it’s important to realize that’s what they’re doing (especially if it’s a mentor or someone you’re actively soliciting help from).

Sometimes you may find yourself on the other side of the divide. When you’re in a position to offer critiques, a good rule of thumb is to avoid being proscriptive. People want to feel empowered to solve their own problems. Suggesting tools and resources they could use, pointing out weak points and flaws that could be addressed, can be very helpful. Trying to totally solve their problem for them isn’t. At worst, they’ll resent you for trying to take control of their situation (even if that isn’t your intention); at best, you’re denying them the satisfaction of fixing their issues under their own steam. You can avoid this by using “you could” versus “you should” language. The former offers options, possibilities to explore; the latter is more demanding.

And remember: don’t offer unsolicited advice! Unsolicited advice can be a source of stress and frustration for people. 

Understand Your Motivations

Take stock of yourself. Understanding what you want to do and why you want to do it is another essential part of being accountable. If you don’t have a clear motivation for doing something, ask yourself if the time and effort you’re putting into this could be directed to something more worthwhile. We can lose so much time chasing after goals and muddled ambitions that don’t serve our needs; rather than actualize into the person we want to be, we pursue a version of ourselves that we think others want us to be. Know what you want and make sure you want it before you commit to that goal.

One benefit of developing this self-awareness is that it allows you to communicate more effectively with your support network. When you know what your goal is and what you need to accomplish it, you can neatly convey that information to your mentors, accountability partners, and anyone else who may help you along the way.

Stick to the Plan & Track Your Progress

Accountability needs a paper trail. When you have goals you want to achieve, you set plans to achieve them. A big part of being accountable is follow-through. Whatever your plan is, you need to commit to it and stick to it as much as you can. You can be flexible when extenuating circumstances and emergencies arise, but otherwise you want to stay on track. If you’re too loosey-goosey with the specifics of how and what and when, you’re not going to make much progress with achieving your ambitions.

Keep a journal or planner to track your progress. Take notes so you know what you’ve been doing to contribute to your long-term goals. Tracking your progress (whether it’s classes taken or pounds lost or skills acquired) keeps you honest because you can see- from week to week- the effort you’ve put in. If you’ve hit a hump and can’t progress, you’ll see that in your records. If it seems like you’re moving too quickly and achieving too much too soon with little resistance, that may be a warning sign that you’re skipping a step. 

Tracking your progress can show you patterns in how you do things. There may be certain days of the week or times where you’re more productive. Maybe you start off strong and are super prolific early in the process and then lose steam as you go on. Knowing these things about yourself can be very useful.

Build a Support Network

It’s much easier to stay accountable when you have to be accountable to other people. Don’t be afraid to lean on your network when you’re trying to be accountable. Checking in with friends, mentors, co-workers, and other trusted contacts can help give you fresh perspectives on your progress. Get an accountability partner, someone that you can check in with on a regular basis to apprise them of your progress and to help them stay on track with their own efforts. 

Having a partner or mentor that you have to “report back” to is a powerful motivator to keep working. You don’t want to go to a bunch of weekly meetings and say that you haven’t done anything. Just wanting to avoid that simple embarrassment could be all the gas in the tank you need to keep motoring toward your goal.



Article by Austin Brietta

For more of our Student Success blogs, check out some of our past stories: