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How to Hold Yourself Accountable

No partner? No problem. You alone hold the key to reaching your goals.

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If you’ve ever made a pact with a friend, co-worker or spouse to hold each other accountable for reaching a goal, you know the struggle is real. While some accountability partners are a match made in heaven, others can be flaky, bossy, unrealistic or even toxic. But truly, if you’re looking for that one magical person who will change your life, look in the mirror because there’s simply no one better to count on than yourself.

“When you hold yourself accountable, a sense of ownership, mastery and pride is created,” says Dara Bushman, PsyD, NBCCH, RRT, a licensed clinical psychologist in Pembroke Pines, Florida, adding that those who are not accountable feel a loss of control and often leave tasks incomplete or complete them with a lack of purpose. “Holding yourself accountable creates patterns of consistency and continuity and empowers authorship of your destiny. When commitment is achieved, a profound purpose is cultivated and integrity is established.”

Putting It Into Practice

Whether you’re trying to be consistent with your workouts, cook more whole foods or save more money, there is nothing like the feeling of accomplishment — it is the essence of strength and power. “Feelings of accomplishment lead to continued success,” Bushman says. “Setting an intention for accountability puts out to the world how you would like to see shifts and transformation happen in all areas of your life.” Here are five strategies she suggests to set yourself up for success:

1. Be realistic.

Create goals that fit with your lifestyle and that you know you can reach or even exceed.

Example: Set a goal to work out three days a week to begin. You’re likely to add a day onto that schedule down the road as it becomes an enjoyable habit.

2. Personalize your plan.

It is more natural to want to be accountable for things that are fun and that you feel good doing. Find your strengths and use what works for you.

Example: If you don’t enjoy cooking, vowing to cook every night will be pure torture. Instead, set a goal to cook two times a week and you’re much more likely to do it.

3. Loosen up (a bit). 

Having flexibility and alternative options within your plan helps you maintain accountability.

Example: If your plan is to organize your house, have more than one system in mind. For example, if your sweaters don’t fit perfectly in a drawer, be willing to fold them differently to store in a container on top of the closet. That way if one method doesn’t pan out, you still have an alternative to quitting

4. Prioritize and simplify.

List your priorities and make a plan of action with which you can notably measure your objectives. Establish one goal to be accountable for at a time, then build on additional areas or tasks.

Example: If you have overwhelming credit card debt, rank your bills in order of payoff priority. Choose one to start, then create an obtainable plan to dissolve your debt, perhaps cutting up the card itself or putting aside $50 a week to pay it off. Then move to the next one.

5. Identify goals versus expectations.

When an expectation is not met, one feels unsuccessful because it is often powered by external stimuli or external accountability. A goal is powered internally and can successfully be accomplished with self-accountability.

Example: If your goal is to lose 20 pounds and you lose 15, you see the progression and maintain motivation therefore increasing your interest to remain accountable. If your expectation is losing 20 pounds and only 15 pounds is shed, it is seen as a failure and creates greater ease to veer off path.