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Personal Accountability

4 Levels of Accountability

by Scot Chadwick

Accountability often occurs informally during daily life, but sometimes it is helpful to have a more strategic arrangement. Ultimately you will want to establish consistency between what you have said you would do and what you are doing.

You can seek any combination of these four levels of accountability:

1 Be Observed. Passive
2 Report Your Status. Active
3 Be Evaluated. Passive
4 Explain Yourself. Active

Let’s learn more about each level.

1. Be Observed.

Your performance of simple tasks tends to improve if you know someone is watching.

In a letter to his young nephew, Thomas Jefferson appealed to the effect of being observed. He wrote,

Whenever you are to do a thing, though it can never be known but to yourself, ask yourself how you would act were all the world looking at you, and act accordingly.*

You want to make a good impression on others, if not for your own sake then perhaps at least to be a good example to them.

2. Report Your Status.

Honestly informing an accountability partner about your plan and your progress helps you keep focused and motivated. You can benefit by sharing relevant details of your life with someone else to keep you on track to accomplish what is important to you.

The simple practice of recording your progress helps you maintain focus.

If you are not tracking your progress toward your goal, how will you know if you are moving toward it, stalling, or falling back? Even the simple practice of recording your progress helps you maintain focus.

3. Be Evaluated.

Enlist someone to verify that you are doing what you said you would do. Be specific about what you would expect them to contribute and what to watch out for to help you accomplish your goals.

Invite them to critique how your present activity is contributing to or detracting from your success. Their objective feedback will help you recognize successes, correct deficiencies, and keep you moving forward.

4. Explain Yourself.

Beyond receiving feedback, you can also give honest answers to questions your partner asks. Developing an open, candid relationship in this way helps you demonstrate ownership of your choices and behavior.

Explain why you did or didn’t do something. This is not giving excuses but providing reasons why you chose a particular path.


Choose which level of accountability might best help you fulfill your goal or obligation. Remember that your trusted partner shares your desire for success.

Keep moving forward!

* Thomas Jefferson to Peter Carr. August 19, 1785. Manuscript/Mixed Material. Back to text

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