One of the things that was the most frightening about quitting my full-time job with a salary and benefits so that I could spend more time with my children wasn’t, in fact, that I wouldn’t have a regularly pay check guaranteed. I knew I could earn money through teaching and blogging online, but I wondered how long I could keep it up. Like most people, I am an extraordinarily hard worker when others hold me accountable, but I have a tendency to waiver on commitments when the only person holding the reigns is me.
Just ask my husband how many times I have abandoned self-imposed plans to keep our counter free of dishes every night.
Even my first two times starting a blog—once in 2012 and again in 2016–fell through the cracks due to my own negligence and my unfortunate habit of burning bright at first and fizzling out.
But improving anything in your life take some major overhaul—purposeful changes, new habits, and most importantly, self-discipline. I actually prefer the term “personal accountability.” Because while self-discipline can include both intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation, personal-accountability assumes only intrinsic motivation.
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation
Extrinsic motivation generally describes anything outside of your own motivation… like rewards and punishments. Take for example earning stickers in class for good behavior, or State Farm’s Good Driver Bonus Check. They give you something for something. Having an employer means that you are typically evaluated a couple times a year and compensated accordingly, with a raise or bonus check, or maybe being put on probation if the findings are not so good.
You can have self-discipline even in situations where extrinsic motivation is your primary push. Being a teacher, my supervisors would only visit my classroom two or three times a year for walk-throughs or evaluations, but even on the times I was not trying to show them my best work, I still did the best teaching I could. (I mean, so few adults were ever in my classroom, I probably could have gotten away with showing movies every other week.)
However, with intrinsic motivation, you are primarily motivated by the pure intention of doing well without someone give you a cookie for it.
This is very similar to will power, follow-through. Starting something is easy… finishing it while no one is watching? Damn near impossible!
Making Personal Accountability Come Naturally
You can make it easier on yourself. Jennifer Cohen (Forbes) lists 5 things you can do to increase your self-discipline. The Inspiration Lady has a similar list.
Here is my own list that has helped me develop new habits in personal accountability.
1. Take care of your health, mental and physical, above all else.
I cannot stress this enough—if I am not in a good place mentally and physically, I cannot move past my obstacles. A poor mental state clouds my productivity, my intrinsic motivation, and my ability to work. If I’m not in a good place physically, I need more sleep but my sleep is poorer quality, I get drained quicker and need to eat more often. These things are a drain on my time and energy.
Here’s how to get yourself into a good place to do your best work!
2. Schedule time to brainstorm and plan.
Any goals are not just going to suddenly manifest before your eyes. I do believe in manifestation, but only if action is behind it. Getting organized is essential to make sure that you’re on the best path and actually working toward what you want!
3. Your goals and what you spend your time on daily need to be in alignment.
This means habits and routines. Get rid of timewasters like facebook and instagram (unless purposeful). I’ve written an entire post about how I overhauled my daily routine and habits here.
This also means that you cannot wait for things to “feel right”. Sometimes inspiration strikes and you should, by all means, change your schedule to go with that flow! But if you’re not making regular and scheduled effort at your goals, they are not going to happen.
4. Be flexible.
If your goals are taking longer than you planned, relax and go with it. If you try to force it to happen, you’ll feel worse and put yourself in a bad place (see #1). Give yourself the flexibility and freedom, and remember—whenever you feel like quitting, learn to take a break. Recharge and refocus if you need to. You’ll come back feeling strong and positive instead of defeated. (If you need inspiration for flexibility, read my post about New Years Resolutions!)
5. Know thy weaknesses.
Before beginning my journey to quitting my job to blog and teach online, I spent countless hours digging deep to admit to myself why my goals had not happened, even when I was working on them regularly. Most of the time, I was getting in my own way because of hang-ups I had about putting myself out there or my belief systems about money. Once working through those things, I felt confident that I could move past them.
6. Reward yourself.
Why? Because you deserve it. I have an entire list of things that I’m going to do for myself when I accomplish my goals, from getting myself a cup of coffee at Starbucks for a small goal reached, to purchasing those expensive earrings that I’d really love to have for a larger goal. It doesn’t even have to be something that costs anything—it could be that you work with your significant other to schedule a day that he will take the kids and you can have time to yourself to take a bath and read your favorite book.
These 6 ways to increase your personal accountability will drastically improve the quality of your life. It’s easy to check out and just let things be the way they are. It takes courage, effort, time, and determination to shape the life that you want.
So… what kind of life do you want?
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