Setting and Reaching Your Goals, Part 3: Accountability

Now that we’ve talked about the basics of goal setting and how to stay motivated in my other April blog posts, it’s time to tackle another big element of goal setting and goal achievement: accountability.

You set a goal and you’ve been doing well. Then you get to the point where it would be just a little too easy to backtrack or give up on your goal. You’re contemplating raiding the savings you’ve built up for something that’s more of a “want” than a “need.” Or if your goal was to start your own business, perhaps self-doubt is creeping in; the goal seems too hard or daunting. Maybe your motivation is slacking, and the initial excitement is starting to wear off. What do you do to stay on track toward your goal?

Be Accountable To Yourself

Start by being accountable to yourself—these are your goals, after all and the most important person to be accountable to is you! Write down your goals. Then keep track of how you’re doing.  One of my favorite tools for self-accountability is to keep a journal. There’s just something about the act of having to write it down that keeps me on the straight and narrow. You can keep an accountability journal for any goal you make.

Here are some ideas for things you may want to record in your accountability journal:

  • Your baseline of where you started (for example, your savings at Day 1, or your credit card balance at the start of pursuing your goal, if you have a personal finance-related goal)
  • Anything motivating that happened during the day that will keep you moving forward.
  • Any challenges you faced and how you’ve overcome them.
  • Any time you’ve gotten off track and what you can do to avoid it next time.
  • How was your mood today and how did it affect your willpower?

Big goals are good things to have.  There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious.  But what if you’ve made a goal so big that you’re having a hard time motivating yourself to get started and/or keep going? Perhaps everything was going well for a few weeks, but then your motivation started to slip.  This is why coaches like me work with our clients to break that bigger vision and those ambitious goals down into smaller steps and along the way.  Think of it as a motivational hack. It’s all about setting mini goals that you can reach quickly. Here’s what can happen when you reach each mini goal along the way.

This is by no means an extensive list. Make it work for you. If you’re the creative type, add illustrations, get out your scrapbooking supplies and make it pretty. If that thought makes you cringe, keep it simple with a plain leather-bound journal and your favorite pen. You can even steal one of the notebooks from your child’s school supply stock and start there. If writing isn’t your thing, keep it simple. Start with just a few bullets of what you’ve done to get you closer to your goal and how you felt about it. It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that.

Don’t limit yourself to pen and paper either. If you prefer not to write, then use your computer and keep a digital journal. You could even go public and start a blog. Who knows, your online accountability journal may help and inspire others!

Find An Accountability Buddy

Having someone with the same or similar goals to talk to can be very motivating. Find someone to become your accountability buddy. You can cheer each other on, share tips and check in to make sure you’re both still on track.  If you can’t find a local friend to join you, consider looking for your “buddy” online. There are forums and groups for all sorts of topics and you’re sure to find the right person to help you stay on track.

Be Accountable to Family and Friends

Another great option is to share your goals and intentions with loved ones. Let them know you’re trying to work out each week, sketch out the first draft of your business plan, or pay down credit card debt.  Getting it out there and knowing that you have loved ones checking in on you can really help to keep you going. Plus, they might become your biggest cheerleaders helping you celebrate each small success along the way.

Be Bold and Make a Public Statement

If you’re feeling brave or want that extra boost of accountability, be bold and make a public statement. Take to your favorite social media outlet and announce to the world at large what you plan to do. Knowing that your readers, followers, and/or friends are keeping up with your progress can help add a layer of accountability.

Find a Coach

Working with a professional coach can be a great way to not only get support on setting your goals, but on staying on track to achieve them.  Coaches like me are trained on techniques to help our clients stay accountable toward their goals and action steps—and, importantly, on how to hold our clients accountable in a supportive and non-judgmental way.  After all, we understand that life happens and sometimes we get off track with our goals! When that occurs, the important thing is not to beat ourselves up if we miss a milestone or fall off the wagon, but rather to figure out how to get going in the right direction again—and to think critically about why we got off track.  Maybe the goal, its smaller subgoals, and/or its timeline weren’t realistic, given everything else going on in your life. Perhaps after you started working toward that goal, you realized it wasn’t actually that important to you after all, and that’s part of what caused your motivation and progress to slow.  A trusted coach can help you revisit and revise your goals as needed as part of the accountability process.

I hope some of these accountability tips are helpful to you as you’re working on your goals.  Next week, we’ll conclude the April blog series on goals by talking about what to do when you complete your goal and how to keep your goal setting going over the long term.