You are not alone if you catch yourself blaming others for your actions, reactions, or inactions. It’s usually easier to point the finger at external factors when something goes wrong, so it’s not surprising that many people choose this path.
However, you probably already know that’s not the path to take if you want to be in charge of your personal and professional life.
Charting the course for your life begins with personal accountability. That means taking full personal responsibility for your actions and inactions, whether good or bad.
In an earlier post, I discussed the qualities to consider when choosing an accountability partner. In this article, my focus is on helping you hold yourself accountable by sharing practical accountability exercises to help you become the person who is worthy of your goals.
You see, setting and smashing your goals is only one-half of the success equation. Who you become in the process is far more important than the goal itself.
Keep reading if you’re ready to start taking charge of your life and stop blaming past negative experiences, current unfavorable conditions, the environment, your company, or government policies.
Personal Accountability: What Does It Really Mean?
Being responsible for what you say, do, and don’t do; that’s personal accountability in a nutshell.
Personal accountability isn’t just about accepting blame when things go wrong. Anyone with a little humility can do that.
Instead, it means to make good on your promises to yourself, no matter the condition. Holding yourself accountable ensures you live up to your own standards and expectations, whether or not your circumstances are agreeable.
That’s another way of saying accountability makes you proactive with a focus on desirable outcomes.
Imagine an organization where everyone goes all out to fulfill what they signed up for. A place devoid of the blame culture; where employees hold each other accountable for the organization’s credibility. Such a company will definitely boast a highly engaged workforce and incredible productivity.
Now, apply the same logic to yourself.
Your personal and professional life will experience drastic, positive changes if you commit to doing what you say you would ― no excuses!
Keep in mind that there’s a world of difference between blame and accountability.
It is easy to engage in self-bashing, all in the name of holding yourself accountable. To avoid this common mistake, I strongly suggest reading this article to understand the difference between self-blame and accountability.
Why You Should Consider Personal Accountability
Developing personal accountability can positively impact your life in all aspects, from your professional to your personal life.
Here’s a quick rundown of the major benefits of having a strong sense of accountability in your life:
- Accountability makes you more proactive: You’ll be proactive about making positive changes in your life if you realize that your thoughts, actions, and inactions directly shape your circumstances. In other words, you are in charge of how things unfold in your life. Accepting accountability shifts your focus from blaming external factors for your circumstances and redirects your attention and energy to deliberately design the exact conditions you want in your life.
- It increases your commitment to your goals: Accountability means you must answer to someone for your choices and actions. In the case of personal accountability, that “someone” is you. An accountability partner isn’t always with you, but you live with yourself, so there is this constant reminder to follow through on your commitments and plans. This encourages personal development and owning the pursuit of your goals.
- Holding yourself accountable helps you track progress: Knowing where you are in relation to where you want to be can be incredibly motivating. Accountability helps you clarify what success means to you, set milestones, and measure your progress. You are not in the dark about your performance, and you know whether or not you are on track to accomplishing your goals.
- It helps you become a better person: Accountability helps you focus on finding solutions rather than fault-finding or blaming yourself and others. With this mindset, you are more likely to ask self-reflection questions like, “how can I improve?” “In what ways can I better support others?” Your quest to genuinely look inwards for answers will lead you to self-discovery and ways to become a better person.
- Accountability sharpens your focus: It’s easy to get distracted if you’re not answerable for your choices and actions. On the other hand, accountability allows you to prioritize what’s most important in your life rather than wasting precious time on unproductive things.
Knowing When to Develop More Personal Accountability
In the next section, I’ll share 7 accountability exercises for developing more personal accountability. But just in case you are unsure if these exercises are for you (perhaps because your professional life seems great), here are a few pointers to let you know there’s work to be done in your personal life:
- You put your life on hold until “X” happens to get your acts together.
- You always have excuses for things not working as they should.
- You blame external factors or other people for your mistakes and poor choices in your relationships, family, and other non-work-related aspects of your life.
- You expect your spouse, friends, or family to change so you can feel better about yourself.
- You wait for others to fix your issues (because you think it’s their fault).
These signs don’t necessarily mean you are a bad or lazy person. They simply mean you aren’t taking charge of your life as you should.
The good news is that you can deliberately change all of that, create positive outcomes in your life, and take responsibility for both good and bad results.
And the not-so-good news?
It takes time to master the skill of holding yourself accountable. You will slip and fall many times ― that’s a given!
But with strong determination and consistent practice, you will become a better version of yourself.
7 Accountability Exercises to Improve Personal Accountability
Exercise 1: Break Down Your Objectives
Most people start their accountability journey by listing everything they want to hold themselves accountable for.
But that’s putting the cart before the horse.
To avoid this common mistake, here’s how to do this exercise:
- Start by clarifying what you expect of yourself. Usually, this means reviewing and breaking down your objectives to remove ambiguity.
- If you work with a team, ensure everyone is on the same page about the expected outcome. State your aim in clear terms to avoid any misunderstanding that can lead to disappointment.
- Establish a baseline to help you measure progress. This involves identifying where you currently are and clarifying where you need to be within a specified time.
Breaking down your objectives helps you define your expectations and correctly assume responsibility for your choices and actions.
Exercise 2: Set Realistic Expectations
Ever felt highly motivated after hearing a powerful speech or reading a well-thought-out write-up? If yes, you probably have experienced what most people do in the heat of the moment: they overcommit!
Unfortunately, this type of commitment doesn’t last because it is based on momentary impulses.
Writing everything you want to hold yourself accountable for when overexcited can lead to undesirable outcomes. You might be tempted to cut corners to meet expectations or forget important tasks.
Here’s one of the best accountability exercises to help you avoid spreading yourself too thin:
- Write down your limits in various aspects of life. For example, what is a no-no for you in relationships, family, and friendship? How many social outings can you fit into your schedule per month? What tasks or assignments would you rather avoid?
- Next, be bold to say no when a request falls into your list of things you can’t do.
You risk burning yourself out if you don’t set realistic expectations. In that case, it won’t take long before you slip into self-blame in the name of holding yourself accountable.
Exercise 3: Train Your “Commitment Muscles”
Learning to set realistic expectations is a step in the right direction. Take that to the next level by actually sticking to your commitments. This is where you must do whatever it takes to consistently deliver on your promises to yourself.
To make your commitment muscles stronger:
- Focus on one goal or objective and hold yourself accountable until you consistently get the desired outcome.
- When faced with situations that may prevent you from sticking to your commitment, pause and ask if it is worth reneging on your promises to yourself.
Always remember, where there’s a will, there’s a way. Or, as Jim Rohn puts it, “If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.”
Exercise 4: Be Answerable to Yourself
Most people don’t like bosses, especially those who breathe down their necks!
Holding yourself accountable implies that you are your own boss, so you must do some close self-monitoring.
Here’s an effective way to do this:
- Ask yourself if your current effort in your work, relationship, and other aspects is the best you can do. Step up your game if you’re doing less than your capability.
- Before you retire for the day, do a mental review of your day to see if you stayed true to what you set out to do.
I’m not trying to put you under unnecessary pressure, but always remember that people ― your significant other, children, loved ones, friends, and coworkers ― are counting on you. For this reason, you shouldn’t trivialize the need to hold yourself accountable.
Exercise 5: Look For Solutions, Not Faults
You will encounter a few hurdles along the way as you journey toward your goals. This is normal and should be expected.
However, avoid blaming external sources or finding faults when faced with hurdles. A better approach would be to:
- Reflect on what went wrong. What are the flaws in your plans? Are there things you didn’t fully consider? How can you prevent it from happening again?
- Make sure to identify the cause of the problem and at least one concrete solution to forestall a future reoccurrence.
By focusing on finding solutions, there’s little chance of blaming yourself or others for the setbacks you encounter.
Exercise 6: Make the Most of Your Time
Postponing things unnecessarily leads to wasted time. To be accountable, you must view time as a limited resource and make the most of it.
To do this:
- Create a daily and weekly to-do list, and remember to check items off the list as you complete them. This gives you a sense of accomplishment as you move toward your goals.
- Include break times in your daily to-do list or rest days in your weekly to-do list. Personal accountability includes caring for your well-being.
Making the most of your time doesn’t mean working non-stop. Rest and relaxation play vital roles in our well-being, and you should prioritize them.
Exercise 7: Create a Constructive Feedback System
So far, I’ve focused on accountability exercises you can do all by yourself. But this exercise is more effective when you enlist the help of others. While self-feedback can be a useful tool, outside perspectives can help you course-correct from time to time.
Here’s what to do:
- Seek constructive feedback in areas of your life you’re looking to make progress. You can ask family, friends, work colleagues, and clients to provide an unbiased evaluation of certain aspects of your life (those areas of your life they are more familiar with).
Ensure to do this periodically (at least once every few weeks) to get an insight into what you’re getting right and where you need to make changes.
Here’s one of the most remarkable things these accountability exercises will help you realize: you are 100% responsible for your life, not your boss, spouse, family, or circumstances (past or present).
The earlier you realize this, the sooner you’ll let everyone else off the hook regarding your choices and actions.
Isn’t it great to know that you can design and direct your circumstances as you please? Holding yourself accountable puts you in the driver’s seat of your life, allowing you to fully assume your rightful role in your life’s affairs.
And that’s intentional living at its best!