ACCOUNTABILITY FEELS GOOD. It’s so simple it’s almost silly, but guess what, if I do the things that I say I am going to do, I feel good, I feel powerful. When I feel good about myself, my energy is amazing. I love that feeling of sitting in my powerful place, of knowing who I am, of having confidence in myself. That’s when things really start to get interesting, it’s my favorite place to operate from. I just went through a long phase of having no accountability in my life. I had a new baby and I knew it was not “my” time it was “our” time, so I put aside my commitment worksheets, gave up my personal accountability group, and put my entrepreneurial pursuits on the backburner. For awhile, it was a much needed break from my “normal” life, from being productive to being present, from creating to allowing, but it turns out there is a rhythm to it all. I need to push myself, I need to have the feeling of accomplishment and purpose to feel like myself – to feel I am contributing and that I am a creative force. I want to make choices and decisions, I want timelines and tension. As soon as I reintroduced accountability into my life after the long hiatus, it felt amazing! Having even one person to provide that accountability makes it so much easier to get critical decisions made and to get rid of procrastination. Accountability makes me make my intentions real, and that feels so good.
I am absolutely phobic about old food. I’m constantly checking expiration dates, I am not a fan of leftovers, I just don’t like things to sit and get old. Gross. Sad too. All that stuff was once good, healthy, fresh, full of vitality. Energy wasted.
I recently realized I was letting things sit too long in my life. I was letting my dreams get stale. I needed to declare myself! I needed to take action fast!
Step 1: Find some people to tell my plans to. I’ve learned that telling myself I’m going to do something only works sometimes, telling someone else I’m going to do something works better, telling a lot of people I’m going to do something works best.
Step 2: Put an expiration date. I can’t say I’m just going to do something, I have to say I’m going to do something by x time.
Step 3: Get it done. Whether it’s one week, one day, one minute before x, I will finally do that thing, I will get it done. Why? Because that’s what fear does to me, it makes me procrastinate until I have a choice, let people down or do the thing that I’ve been dreading, afraid of, avoiding, whatever. Ninety-nine percent of the time I’ll choose to do that thing rather than let people down.
Today, I sent out a survey to get feedback on a new training idea. I wrote the survey last week. I finalized it several days ago. I revisited it this morning. Why did I finally send it out? I actually told myself I’d have it out last week (clearly, I talked myself out of that one) but I told somebody else it would be out today by 1pm. It feels great to have it done and out there.
Making your dreams real requires action. What action do you need to take? Who are you going to tell? What’s the expiration date?
I hold people accountable. People come to me because they want that tension, they want someone to make sure that they do what they say they are going to do. They want a context to get things done. So I have one group member that is constantly impressing me with her level of commitment. She is a go-getter, she makes a great living, she is a caring friend and family member, she gives back to her community, she’s focused on health, she is an AMAZING person. So why am I writing about her today…because she is too sick to make our meeting today so instead she emailed in her commitments, what she got done and what she didn’t. I thought to myself, when we are sick and tired we can make all kinds of excuses, but here she is in bed emailing in her commitments allowing herself to be held accountable. I’m impressed.
I recently started working with a new accountability group. It’s fun to work with a new group because you get to interact with unique personalities and challenges. I am constantly impressed by the people that are drawn to putting themselves in an accountability group – the level of honesty, the self-knowledge, the desire to learn – all there. At the first meeting they set out with some modest and more challenging commitments. By the second meeting some came in with their sheets completed, some not, some had completely forgotten or been unable to do anything on their list. I reminded them that they are building a context around themselves. The context is either, “I do what I say I’m going to do, so I deserve it.” We meet once a week to take account of whether or not we did in fact do what we said we were going to do, not because it makes our word impeccable although it certainly puts us closer, but because with accountability comes self-respect which breeds confidence and allows us to grow and expand. Then we begin fresh again. I can tell you the ones that did what they said, had a markedly different energy and feeling about them, it inspired me and I believe it inspired the others in the group.
I never thought I’d be quoting Woody Allen, but he really was on to something when he said, “eighty percent of success is showing up.”
I had a meeting scheduled this morning for 10am and the person cancelled at 8:30am. It wasn’t an emergency, it was more of a – sorry but I can’t make it. It got me wondering about the person, their character, and I had all sorts of thoughts about common courtesy and then of course the value that they would have gotten from the meeting. Then I had to be honest and say it was a relief, my morning was starting out very hectic even by 8:30am and I was juggling all sorts of conflicting obligations to get myself to the 10am meeting on time. So on some level deeper than being peeved I was grateful.
Then I started to think of all the times I haven’t shown up especially lately. The holiday parties I didn’t attend because I was too tired and figured the host wouldn’t miss me or mind. The social functions I was non-commital towards because I didn’t want to over schedule myself. I resolved to clean it up. Every once in awhile I need a reminder that saying no, is sometimes better than saying maybe and saying yes, means yes I will show up. It’s simple but if it’s 80% of success, which I agree with, I intend to be doing a much better job of it in 2011.
Being accountable is a funny thing. When you do everything you set out to do it’s a wonderful feeling to recognize it. To reach the finish line, to feel the satisfaction of a job well done. Especially if it wasn’t easy and you had to work really hard to get there. But the flip side is when you don’t quite make it to the finish line. When you come up short and you don’t want to look at it or acknowledge it at all. You let the “stuff” get in your way, you didn’t hold to your goals or commitments, you feel at a loss for how time went by so fast and you have to look at what you didn’t do rather than what you did. It’s a bummer…it doesn’t feel good…but take a good look anyway. Be honest, if you had big goals for 2010 look at them. I know I have. There are things I can be proud of and there are others that I cringe at but I am thankful that I got to write them down and that I get to be held accountable to them so I can wipe the slate clean and start again. Being accountable can feel not so good but it also means a fresh start. So if last year wasn’t the year you hoped for or aimed for – acknowledge it – and LET IT GO. It’s time for making new big, hairy, audious goals for 2011.
I just finished reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. If you haven’t heard of it or read it I recommend checking out her blog at www.happiness-project.com. I enjoyed reading about her year of exploring her own happiness and what happiness is/means and I appreciated how she combined research and her personal experience to make the book both real and substantial. One of the things that keeps running through my mind, is a thought that she repeats throughout the book. “The days are long but the years are short.” My translation – get off your butt and do IT now. What ever IT is.
Another thing I related to in the book was the effectiveness of her Resolutions Chart. She makes resolutions throughout the book and then checks in on whether she’s kept them. It’s her record keeping system for how she is doing on her Happiness Project. As a trainer and group leader, I have each participant in one of my groups do a version of this, it’s called a Commitment Sheet. It’s divided into 3 categories: health, career, and personal life and you can make one or more commitments in each area. They must be specific, measurable, actionable and ambitious. Each time that the group meets you check in as to how you did on your commitments. It’s a powerful and revealing process. It clarifies what it is that you want to accomplish, it keeps you accountable to doing what you say you are going to do, and it illuminates the areas in which you struggle. I relate with Rubin, when she sums up her experience over the Happiness Project year, on Pg. 287 she writes, “by the end of December, I’d realized that the most helpful aspect of my happiness project hadn’t been these resolutions, or the Four Splendid Truths I’d identified, or the science I’d learned, or all the high-minded books I’d read. The single most effective step for me had been to keep my Resolutions Chart.”
It’s absurdly simple, you’ve heard it before, so you think, ‘why should I actually write down what I want to accomplish? It’s not like I”m going to forget. I know what I want and what I need to do to get it.’ But you wouldn’t believe how easily you can talk yourself out of something. How easy it is to put it off, even it’s really important to you. Bottom line: figure out what you want, write it down, and post it where you can see it. It’s so simple – why not?