Posted: July 26, 2010
No matter what you’re trying to accomplish, one of the most important tools you have is accountability. Whether it’s a new goal you’re working on, or you’re trying to fix that same old problem, the difference between success and failure is often how accountable you are.
Accountability means that you have to answer to someone. At work, this usually is a direct supervisor, but often you can have others you are accountable to as well, like a board of directors, a city board, county board, and so on.
Even elected officials are accountable—to you, at the ballot box. If they make you mad enough, you’ll give your vote to someone else. If enough people don’t like the situation, that accountability will get them voted out of office.
But the flip side is true, too. Here’s where accountability is a blessing. If enough people like what they’ve done, they’ll get re-elected.
If you’re self-employed, you’re really accountable to your customers. It means you take things seriously when people have a complaint or suggestion. And you try to be proactive when you can.
That’s one reason we’re continually trying to improve things, like putting fresh paint on a wall, moving equipment around, or even removing a wall to make a room bigger. Or getting a couple more treadmills because you’ve noticed the cardio room is getting pretty crowded at times.
Accountability is also important in relationships. When things are going great, we get accustomed to it and start taking things for granted. But then when things start going wrong, if you don’t have a system in place to talk things over, they can go downhill pretty fast.
Here’s where friends and family members need to stick their nose in. While at first it might be unwelcome, sometimes it’s necessary. And while it’s uncomfortable telling someone what you think about what they’re doing, it’s better than just watching them go down the tubes.
Later if they come to their senses, they’ll appreciate what you tried to do for them. And if they don’t make it through, at least you’ll know you did everything you could. It’s tough on everybody, because this is tough stuff, but you can survive it.
I can tell you this from personal experience. Circumstances, desire, and other factors can work together to create a “perfect storm” that leads to a moment of insanity which is the turning point. Then you have to justify things to yourself and others.
Little things become big things, up is down, black is white, wrong becomes right. Before you know it, you find yourself in an entirely different place than you ever thought possible.
Left unchecked, it’s easy to make a mess of things. It doesn’t take long for things to get out of hand, trust me on this. I lacked accountability.
But even then, redemption is possible. And accountability can play a role here too. If you’ve broken trust with someone, only complete, open accountability will demonstrate your intent to repair the breach and turn things around. If anything remains hidden, it won’t work.
Accountability here can work for you too. As you’re seen doing the right thing and making better choices every day, you can start to rebuild those bonds that were broken.
So what does this have to do with exercise? It’s got everything to do with exercise, especially if you’re overweight. Did you know that it’s possible to “have an affair” with food? If you’ve ever left a trail of cookie crumbs across the counter at two in the morning, you know what I’m talking about.
And how many times have you tried to lose the weight, only to just put it back on, perhaps greater than before? I know several people who’ve lost 100 lbs and gained it all back. One told me he just quit working out and went back to eating whatever he wanted to. He lacked discipline, but he also lacked accountability.
When I went through the academy to become a part-time police officer, I learned one of the prime functions of law enforcement was police presence. And when I was working, my mentor Ray was always telling me that the vast majority of policing was just being seen, and I found it to be true.
Think about it. If you find yourself going just a little too fast, what do most people do as soon as they even see a police car? Slow down. While many people wouldn’t even think of breaking the law, the potential for a ticket or even arrest keeps us all honest. That’s accountability.
But what would happen if we just took away all those laws, along with the people who enforce them? The strong but immoral would prey on the rest. It would become the Wild West all over again.
That’s what happens when someone lost the weight but then doesn’t have the structure and accountability anymore. Their stronger desire overcomes their weaker will, and you can see what can happen then.
This summer we’re not doing the Biggest Loser, but it occurred to me that we still can help make a difference. I can’t drag them into the gym, but I can help the ones that are coming with accountability.
That’s why we’ve started a weekly weigh-in for the summer that’s posted conspicuously. There are no prizes, no accolades. Just names, last week’s weight, and this week’s weigh-in. If people want to opt in, all they have to do is give me their weight each week.
This should prove to provide some accountability for them. Is it that other people are going to see it? Perhaps, but I don’t think that’s the main thing. Really, it’s just like making sure I talk to my wife when things are bothering me, or all of us slowing down when we see a police car.
That regular weigh-in should help to serve the same purpose—it will force them to take a hard look at how things are going. And that accountability may just help keep them on track.
Now, you don’t have to be a member to take advantage of this idea. Tell someone else what you want to accomplish, and set up a weekly check-in with them. Write down the progress you’re making—or not making. Talk it over each week and stay focused. Good luck!