What Is Accountability: The Complete Guide
In this guide, you’ll learn the full meaning of accountability, how it works, and why it matters. When it comes to creating positive change and achieving your goals, this six-syllable word could transform your life.
What Is Accountability?
First, let’s define accountability for this guide. Most dictionaries describe it as the quality or state of being accountable. But here’s a more complete and specific definition:
Accountability is the quality of taking personal responsibility for your decisions and actions by sharing them with a trusted partner.
Being accountable can be as simple as making a commitment and sharing it with a friend. However, an accountability partnership can involve more than two individuals. For example, children can—and should—be accountable to their parents, while larger groups or corporations may also be held accountable for their choices.
Accountability is a tool for growth.
Sadly, the idea of being accountable often suffers from a negative stereotype. So to be clear, accountability does not mean surveillance and invasion of privacy, or unwarranted criticism and finding fault. And it is also not about probation and punishment when you mess up.
Instead, accountability is a tool for growth. The mindset of an accountable person pursues self-improvement. Accountability means commitment. It means recognizing and embracing the fact that you are responsible for you.
Who Needs Accountability?
You’ve probably heard the perspective that accountability is only for people who are struggling with a specific issue. Also, parents often see accountability as something to keep their children safe, while believing they don’t need it for themselves. But both of these are misconceptions. People who think this way fail to recognize the benefits of accountability to help them succeed.
Accountability is for those who desire to grow and change.
When it’s done right, anyone can benefit from accountability! Did you know that you are far more likely to fulfill your goals and obligations if you commit to sharing your plan and progress with a trusted partner? Various studies have confirmed this effect, including one by Professor Gail Matthews of the Dominican University of California.
So instead of viewing accountability as a stigma to avoid, think of it as a privilege to be sought after! Find dependable companions who can help you avoid failure and find growing success in life.
For example, the average American walks about 5,000 to 7,500 steps per day. Suppose you make a personal goal of logging at least 10,000 steps each day. What happens to your motivation if you have committed to reporting your daily count to a trusted partner who is rooting for you? You would be more inclined to make sure you get your steps in.
Accountability is for those who desire to grow and change. Is that you?
How Accountability Works for Your Success
Working with one or more trusted partners will bring greater success in fulfilling commitments and accomplishing your goals. Here’s how the process of accountability can impact your life and help create positive change.
1. Living Deliberately
Accountability is an attitude, a willingness, a state of mind. It begins with a desire to live intentionally—correcting errors and moving forward.
Evaluate your choices, motives, and actions. Avoid wandering toward bad things or merely wasting time. An accountable person acknowledges that progress often comes less from instant cures and more through a steady journey.
Before you commit, make sure you have invested the necessary time to define your goal and craft an action plan to achieve it. These important steps will help you get the most out of your accountability partnership.
2. Demonstrating Your Integrity
Integrity is completeness and consistency across your entire life. It is a match between what you claim to be and what you do.
Everything you do either confirms or challenges who you are and who you want to be. Demonstrate your integrity and build trust with those you love and respect.
3. Communicating with Your Partner
Build camaraderie with your accountability partner by reporting your plan and your progress along the way. Healthy friendships can encourage and motivate you toward success.
Good communication with your partner is important to make the most of this relationship. Receive the help others want to provide, and invite strategic feedback from your trusted partner. Sometimes you don’t even know what is lacking or needs improvement in your life. You can benefit from an objective partner who is willing to speak the truth to help you accomplish more.
4. Sharing Relevant Details About Your Life
Be strategically transparent and honest about those aspects of your life that relate to your goal or commitment. Consider sharing the following:
- The goal or commitment you intend to achieve (like spending less time on social media, maintaining purity online, or limiting the places you visit).
- Your attitudes, beliefs, desires, and decisions surrounding your commitment.
- Past and present actions and habits that have helped or hindered your progress.
- Your next steps forward.
5. Achieving Your Commitments
By sharing relevant details about your life, you will find a higher commitment to do what you said you would do. You take action knowing that a trusted partner will ask you about your progress.
The accountability relationship focuses on the commitment to be achieved. Sure, you will experience ups and downs along the path. But you and your partner bring the proper perspective on your successes and failures, you implement solutions, and you always keep the desired end in sight.
Open communication with a trusted partner can help you build excellence in all areas of life. You can learn from your mistakes and keep focused on your goals and obligations.
Keep Moving Forward!
You want to change and grow, right? Then enlist trusted partners to help you succeed. Accountability is part of the path toward improving yourself.
Accountability is a blessing that doesn’t need a disguise.
If others are dictating what you do and how you do it, you are limited in your growth and your motivation to carry it forward. If you decide and act according to your own will, you are more likely to succeed.
Don’t make your accountability partner feel like they have to force you to follow through on your commitments. They shouldn’t have to constantly persuade you to press on toward the goal.
What can you do to make your life better? Decide now to make the choices and take the actions that only you can do. Fulfill your goals and commitments by the proper use of accountability. Accountability is a blessing that doesn’t need a disguise.
Build Confidence and Earn Trust
The concepts of accountability and responsibility work closely together, and they can overlap in meaning. Being accountable presumes that you are responsible. Both practices build confidence in yourself and earn trust from others.
Yes, you will encounter obstacles, challenges, and setbacks along the way. Seek to be reconciled with anyone you have hurt and make restitution when appropriate. Remember that the past is for learning from not for living in. You live in the present with a view toward the future.
Levels of Accountability
It’s important to note that different levels of accountability will produce varying results. For example, being observed is a form of accountability. Of course, observation alone is not as impactful as actively reporting your status to someone regularly. Similarly, having a trusted friend give feedback about your progress will have a greater effect if you choose to thoughtfully respond to his comments and questions.
Consider how you can get the most out of your partnership by committing to the appropriate level of accountability.
How to Find a Good Accountability Partner
If you’ve read this far, you clearly are a person who wants to change and grow. So how can you find a good accountability partner to support you along the way? Let’s consider who could be a good fit for you.
You may want different accountability partners for different areas of your life.
Start cultivating an array of trusted friends who can help you succeed in life and whom you can also encourage and build up. Ideally, these should be people whom you know personally and are local or otherwise easily reachable.
Where to start looking? You could find a good accountability partner in any of these existing relationships:
- Brother or sister
- A member of your church
- A colleague at work or via a professional network
- A trusted friend on social media
You may want different accountability partners for different areas of your life. For example, you might have a partner to share your exercise and fitness goals with, and you might have another partner to hold you accountable financially. You could have someone else help you with spiritual or work-related commitments as well.
When finding an accountability partner, be careful about enlisting people who know you perhaps too well. They might not be objective about your successes and failures. They might have emotional or other obstacles—possibly influenced by your past failures—that would prevent them from assisting you. Close family members and friends also might not want to hurt you with the truth and so would hold back necessary correction.
How to Ask Someone to Be a Partner
How you approach someone to be a partner depends on the level of accountability you are seeking to establish. Having someone receive status reports from you would be different than someone you invite to evaluate your progress and ask questions. Think through what you are asking a potential partner to do so they can make a wise decision.
Think through what you are asking a potential partner to do.
You could approach a prospective partner by saying, “I am working to [describe your goal]. May I give you regular updates on my success to encourage me to persevere?” If you want them to evaluate your progress and ask you questions, be sure to make that clear to them. Also, specify how often you would expect to talk about your commitment and if you’ll meet face-to-face or via some other means.
After a month, evaluate the relationship. Is the person available, reliable, and responsive? Does the partner treat this as a priority? Are they helpful to your progress? If your partner consistently fails to meet expectations, you may need to find a different partner who is more committed or compatible.
What to Share with Your Accountability Partner
As you establish an accountability partnership, you’ll need to decide how much to share with that person. The answer depends on who your partner is, the level of accountability you want, and what you are seeking accountability for.
Who Is the Partner?
If you are married, strive to be transparent with your spouse about everything. Keeping secrets in marriage tends toward disharmony, suspicion, arguments, and worse. Instead, seek open, honest communication with your spouse to build intimacy and trust.
Besides your spouse, you will likely have multiple specific partners for various aspects of your life. What you share with them depends on what you want them to observe and evaluate.
What Are You Seeking Accountability for?
Make sure you give your partner enough information to effectively evaluate your success. Consider sharing any of these elements:
- The goal or obligation you intend to achieve.
- Your attitudes, beliefs, desires, and decisions surrounding your commitment.
- Past and present actions that have helped or hindered your progress.
- Your steps forward.
Don’t make excuses. Tell your own story and refrain from degrading others.
You may also share other specifics as appropriate. However, avoid overburdening your partner with nonessential information. Keep your words pure and positive. Don’t make excuses. Tell your own story and refrain from degrading others.
Keep your success in view as you determine what to share. What will help move you forward?
Getting the Full Benefit of Accountability
Putting accountability in place is a major step on the path to success, but it doesn’t work on autopilot. You have committed to improving yourself, and this takes work.
So, what are some key attitudes and actions you must have to improve with accountability?
1. Humble Yourself
It takes humility to commit to change. You have already acknowledged that you are not perfect, so continue to admit your failings and faults. Recognize your shortcomings and work to fix them.
Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.
You have asked someone to help you, so welcome their assistance. Openly respond to their questions without becoming defensive. Receive criticism and discern the truth. Be thankful and say so.
Being humble does not mean you should be insecure or timid. Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.
Once you have gained some success, maintain an unpretentious attitude. Instead of showing contempt for others who still need to change and grow, share your knowledge, tips, and successes with them. Seek not to elevate yourself in their eyes but to build them up and encourage them to pursue victories for themselves.
2. Deal in Truth
Communication is a key aspect of effective accountability. You’ve enlisted the help of a trusted partner, so be trustworthy to them too.
Dishonesty kills accountability.
Share relevant details with your partner in an open, truthful, and transparent way. Honesty and sincerity help move you forward. Hiding or lying about pertinent details does not help your progress, and neither does responding defensively to questions from your partner. Dishonesty kills accountability.
Remember that you asked this person to be your partner. He or she should have your best interests in mind. You need to feel safe entrusting personal details to this person.
You may also want to communicate with your partner immediately if you are on the verge of failure, or to give context to a real or perceived setback. Talk about what matters, what affects your quality of life and your progress toward your goal.
Remember, you are responsible for you. So ask yourself: what can you do, what must you do to live better? Examine yourself first. Act on the truth you already know and commit to learning and growing along the way. Exercise self-control even if no one is looking.
Avoid the path of least resistance. Be bold!
Avoid the path of least resistance. Be bold! Take informed risks. Move beyond embarrassment about your failures. When you hate failure enough, you will tend to succeed.
Keep focused on the goal. It may take some time to see the fruit of your labor. However, your daily decisions and actions influence your momentum toward your goal.
4. Measure Your Progress
Once you start down the path toward your goal, it’s essential to have a system in place to track your progress. Without a clear metric, how will you and your accountability partner know whether you are taking steps forward or backward?
Keeping a journal is a simple and effective way to start recording your progress. Habit tracking apps are another useful tool to track your improvement and boost your rate of success.
For a more comprehensive solution, set up accountability software to automatically monitor your activity and send reports to a chosen partner. Accountable2You lets you enter a list of customized trigger words that will prompt an alert to your partner, as well as GPS location accountability and other advanced features.
When your progress is clearly measured, accountability becomes even more powerful as a tool for positive change! You will stay more motivated to continue a good streak, and your partner will know better how to encourage you along the way.
Accountability is a proven strategy for those who want to grow and change. Enlist a good accountability partner to help you focus on reaching your goals.
Your progress is largely up to you. You can and must own your success. Press on and keep moving forward.