Personal accountability is the self-discipline and follow-through you have, and it helps you achieve your goals without being held accountable by anyone else.
Many people look at personal accountability in terms of the workplace and business innovation. How can I get my team to take ownership of the results I need?
But personal accountability is larger than that. In fact, it is unequivocally a fundamental aspect of any successful endeavor. Entrepreneurship, small businesses, online businesses, fitness goals, athletic achievements, and personal goals all need a fair amount of personal accountability.
Even homeschool moms and stay at home moms need a certain level of personal accountability to themselves and to their children in order to achieve the level of learning they want and expect from their home life experience.
What does Personal Accountability Mean?
Personal accountability means that you account for your own actions. You don’t have to rely on deadlines, nagging, incentives or rewards to get things done. You automatically do them because of your desire and drive for success. You rely purely on self-motivation and intrinsic motivation to accomplish what you want in life.
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.
Personal Accountability or Self-Discipline?
Personal accountability is important in many different facets of life. Improving anything in your life or business can take some major overhaul—purposeful changes, new habits, proper communication with others, and most importantly, self-discipline.
So what’s the difference between personal accountability and self-discipline?
While personal accountability is holding ourselves responsible for our goals, self-discipline is the action and routine that help those goals come to fruition. Personal accountability and self-discipline are equally challenging when we aren’t relying on extrinsic motivators to keep us on track.
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.
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?
That’s a lot harder.
Intrinsic motivation to set goals, hold ourselves responsible for them, and then back that responsibility up with actions and routines, is going to be challenging, so let’s look at some ways that we can make that personal accountability come more naturally.
Here is my own list that has helped me develop new habits with personal accountability and allowed me to find balance in my life.
What is My Why? Finding Your Motivation
4 Benefits of Personal Accountability
1. Accountability sets you up for greatness
When you take responsibility for your own goals, you’re setting yourself up for success.
It takes a certain level of vulnerability, honesty, and willingness to fix your process in order to have true success driven only by intrinsic motivation.
“Vulnerability is courage. It’s about the willingness to show up and be seen.”
That ability to be honest with yourself and the courage to step forward and define the success you want will already propel your potential for greatness forward.
2. It builds trust
Whether that be between team members, business to client, or self-trust in your own entrepreneurship journey, personal accountability builds a deep level of trust.
Trust can help you grow, help you develop healthy relationships, and open yourself up to positive emotions like success, love, optimism, and understanding.
3. It keeps you on a steady path toward your goals
When you truly hold yourself accountable, it happens over the long term. Accountability is an on-going process toward your own success that can last for years, through new goals, and can even carry over to different parts of your life.
4. It helps keep you organized
Personal accountability forces a certain level of organization and critical thinking. Going back to reflect on your progress, assess whether something is working like you want it to, or refine and streamline your business are all essential parts of personal accountability.
10 Tips to Make Personal Accountability Come Naturally
1. Take care of your health, mental and physical, above all else.
This may sound counter-intuitive. If you’re worried about personal or professional goals, why does physical and mental health play a role?
When you are in the best shape, physically and mentally, you have a great capacity for focused energy and space for new goals in your life.
A poor mental state can cloud productivity, intrinsic motivation, and ability to work. If you’re not in good health physically, you may need more sleep but you may also have a poorer quality sleep. You might get drained quicker and need to eat more often. These things are all a drain on your time and energy.
A poor physical state can cause pain, detracting from your ability to focus and concentrate. It can be the cause of lethargy or fatigue, and you may not have the physical energy to complete the tasks you have set for yourself.
Taking care of your health in order to maximize your personal accountability and self-discipline is the first step.
The Productivity Health Connection
2. Schedule time to brainstorm and plan to have more personal accountability
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!
One way to do this is through regular check-ins.
You may want some worksheets to help you reflect on your goals, how far you have to go, and what steps you need to get there.
You might also be interested in a Daily Planner system that allows you to
3. Your goals and what you spend your time on daily need to be in alignment.
Use time wisely and don’t over commit.
This means habits and routines. Get rid of timewasters like facebook and instagram (unless purposeful).
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. Practice commitment for your personal accountability
When you hear about success stories, one of the primary aspects that always stands out to me is how committed these people were to their goals.
JK Rowling got rejected by publishers time and again, but because she was committed to her vision and passion for these stories she had written, she kept at it. Of course, eventually, a publisher accepted her novel and she’s now a famous writer.
Nas of Nas Daily speaks of how, when he was getting his company off the ground, he was committed to his videos and they were the first thing (and sometimes the only thing) he would do during a day.
Hopefully your goals are something you feel 100% committed to. If you don’t, and you don’t have a passion for what you’re doing, then perhaps it isn’t that you need more personal accountability: maybe you need goals that fit your passion!
5. Be flexible and resilient.
When you set time-oriented goals for yourself, don’t set the goals to happen too soon. Pushing yourself toward unachievable goals sets you up for failure.
Be reasonable when you give yourself a deadline. Build in extra time, because we all know how things in life happen. Your boss didn’t like the first draft. Your kid got sick and you had to take 2 days off work.
Give yourself 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 this post about New Year’s Resolutions.)
6. 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. Once working through those things, I felt confident that I could move past them.
Goals can be scary. Do you have a tendency to run from commitment? Do you get distracted? Do you like having the security blanket of extrinsic motivation from a boss or supervisor?
When you identify the things that can get in your way, you can put things in place to help you get around those self-made obstacles.
READ MORE: 13 Tips for Increasing Your Self Confidence
7. Get guidance for continuous learning
Having personal accountability doesn’t mean that you have to do it all by yourself.
In fact, having a mentor, trusted boss or supervisor, or a teacher is essential to your success. A mentor can help give you feedback on your progress, ask questions that will help lead you to your own best path forward, and give you ideas about things that have worked in the past for themselves or for others.
Being receptive to this feedback (not criticism) can make the difference in the amount of time it takes you to reach your goals, and how much struggle you have to go through.
8. Fix the process to boost your personal accountability
After getting this feedback from a mentor, co-worker, or even just after honest evaluation of your own work, you can start to tweak your workflow, organization, and processes.
After all, Albert Einstein said:
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
If you’re doing the same thing over and over and feel like you’re spinning your wheels, you’re not taking honest responsibility for your goals, nor are you utilizing your time efficiently.
This is an important step whether you’re working toward career goals, starting a new business, or learning how to homeschool your child.
9. Take ownership of the results
It’s easy to blame other things or people when you don’t reach your goals on time. We all make excuses.
“I was sick for a week and got so behind.”
“My son had PT twice a week in the last month, so I just couldn’t execute my plan exactly.”
“My husband took all my time arguing with me about petty things.”
Even if it’s a good excuse, it’s still an excuse. If you’ve worked flexibility into your plan as mentioned above, you shouldn’t allow other events to deter your progress.
That means taking ownership of the results. Return back to step 4 for commitment toward your goals.
10. Reward yourself for your personal accountability.
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 10 steps to increase your personal accountability will drastically improve the quality of your life in terms of health, accomplishments, and fulfillment.
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, career, small business, homeschooling life that you want.
So… what kind of life do you want?