Once we’ve polished off our pancakes, some of us will think of giving up something for Lent.  I do even though I am not religious and I don’t bother with the pancakes either!  It’s just a great opportunity to stand back and ask myself if all my habits are helpful and if not, to do something differently. Importantly, Lent doesn’t have to be about giving up, it could be about taking on something new.  So how about this year, instead of giving up chocolate or cutting down on TV, you take up the habit of accountability for your results instead?

“It is not only what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable” – Moliere

As a coach and coachee, I know how powerful accountability is.  For example, I lost my daily journal a little while ago and once I stopped holding myself accountable through my journaling, my morning miracle routine took a nosedive.  However, I make every effort to progress the actions I committed to with my own coach and my own clients make great progress when they track their actions and report back to me.  It’s not about success or failure or whether everything on the list gets done but rather taking steps consistently towards your goals and having someone to share that progress with; to help you work through the sticking points and celebrate your successes.

Goat and chicken hiding.  You can't hide from yourself!

You can’t hide from yourself!

Check out this accountability ladder (thanks to my coach Bernie for sharing).  Which rungs are more likely to get the results you are looking for?  Yep, those where you are accepting responsibility for your results and getting on with the task in hand.  When you do this, you are powerful not powerless.  Now imagine sharing your targets and progress with someone else.  How far could you go with an accountability partner by your side for motivation and encouragement?

Accountability breeds response-ability” – Stephen Covey

Your accountability partner doesn’t have to be a coach or an expert in the areas you want to work on, although that could be helpful.  You don’t even have to reciprocate on the same themes.  For example, you might want to develop smarter working practices to cut down the late nights at the office, your partner might want some support with their fitness regime.  You each set the measures and the agenda and then agree how you can work together.

Tips for a successful accountability partnership:

  • find someone you respect and for whom you can provide accountability. 
  • decide what goes on the agenda so it doesn’t get personal. 
  • make the conversations time-bound.  Keep them focused so you stay on topic and more likely to remember any learnings and takeaways from the meeting.

Here is an example of an agenda used by Jeff Sanders whose accountability partner runs a website called “No Meat Athlete”:

  • Wins and accomplishments. What three things went really well last week? What are you proud of? Did anything new and surprising happen?
  • Losses. What did not go well? Where did you drop the ball? What goals did you fail to achieve?
  • Fixes. How will you correct the problems from last week? Specifically, what do you plan to do this week to make sure the problems do not return?
  • Ah ha! Moments. What brilliant insights did you come across? What new ideas are you excited about? Did you find anything inspirational or reflective while reading, attending a seminar, or talking to a friend?
  • Goals for the week.  What are your top three goals for next week? What are you willing to commit to achieving?
  • Personal development materials. How will you enrich yourself this week? What books are you reading?
  • What workshops are you attending? What audio programs, podcasts, or audio books will you be listening to?
  • Skills to practice. How will you get better at what you do? What skill sets are you sharpening? What new skills will you be developing?

(from Sanders, Jeff. The 5 A.M. Miracle: Dominate Your Day Before Breakfast. Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition).

Alternatively, you could make it more stats based with a habit tracker like this.  Coach Marshall Goldmith sets himself 22 daily questions and scores himself out of 10 on each of them.  He then gets a daily phone call to report his progress.  Sounds extreme but he swears by it.  His items cover work, family, behaviours, health and fitness.

Of course, your list need not be so wide ranging.  It could focus on a specific project, study plan or healthy eating plan where motivation is lacking.  You could use ticks and crosses rather than scores.  As Marshall Goldsmith says; “You’re not constructing your list to impress anyone. It’s your list, your life. I score my “Did I do my best” questions on a simple 1 to 10 scale. You can use whatever works for you. Your only considerations should be: Are these items important in my life? Will success on these items help me become the person that I want to be?”

(from Goldsmith, Marshall, Triggers: Sparking positive change and making it last, Profile Books. Kindle Edition).

I’m sure you are now wondering what I’m going to do for Lent.  Well, let me tell you:

  • Replace most* TV with something more helpful such as reading, catching up on podcasts or exercise. 
  • Hold myself accountable by reinstating my habit tracker (ticks and crosses) which I lost with the journal.  This covered my health and fitness plans, business activities and personal development. 
  • Schedule weekly accountability meetings with my husband (Ian@thrivepersonaltraining).  Sundays evenings work well for us. As a Personal Trainer and Nutrition coach, he asks good questions (without blame or criticism) and can advise on my heath and fitness targets.  As my husband, he can also offer practical support.  It has worked well before and can do so again.    
  • Be more proactive in planning the week ahead and making time for exercise and personal development.  My approach will combine both of the examples above.

There’s nothing major or ground-breaking here just useful habits and conversations to keep me focused and make better use of my time. They don’t need to stop at Easter, either!

Are you ready to take responsibility for your results for the next 40 days?  Who can hold you accountable to your targets and plans?  If you’re not sure what you are aiming for, or need an accountability partner, contact Shirley. Find out how you can find the clarity, courage and commitment necessary to find your best self and get it working for you.

*No one’s life is enhanced by re-runs of Murder She Wrote, agreed, but I draw the line when it comes to Only Connect, The Great British Sewing Bee, Portrait Artist of the Year and Modern Family. That’s only three hours a week.  Come on, a girl needs a little downtime!    

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