I am consistently approached with questions about accountability. As teachers and as humans, we have no problem holding other people accountable for their actions, right? We hold our students accountable for their work and when they fail to come through on their obligations, we seek appropriate consequences (then we get yelled at by their parents for doing our jobs correctly, but thats another story). I think it is pretty clear that we do this every day, and holding our students accountable is something that we don’t really struggle with. It is a basic teaching practice that we all live by. The problem that we struggle with is holding ourselves accountable. No one corrects our shortcomings when we fail to reach a personal goal other than ourselves. It’s human nature not to push hard enough to achieve something when we know there are no repercussions or at least ones that we can immediately see. So how do we learn to hold ourselves accountable?
It is very easy to say “I am going to run 5 miles every day,” or “I am going to change my eating habits.” The sad reality is that many of us, myself included, often do not come through on our plans. I frequently say I am going to cut down on my pizza consumption but the fact that I am typing this as quickly as possible so that I can answer the door when the delivery driver comes proves that I am a failure, too. But am I really a failure? No. I’m human and make mistakes. This can be a huge problem for many people, though. They make a mistake and then give up.
A member of one of my accountability groups sent me a Facebook message last week explaining her night out at a friend’s birthday. She had been doing so well, but on this particular night she really screwed up. She broke down and ate a piece of cake. The bigger problem is when she decided to follow the mindset that if she ate one piece she might as well eat the whole darn thing. So 10,000 calories and a missing jean’s button later she was utterly depressed. But no one is perfect and attempting to live a healthy lifestyle is going to be riddled with thousands of pieces of cake. If you can accept that and move on, you will have much greater success in getting healthy. Don’t ever use a mistake as en excuse to stop trying.
Excuses are another accountability nightmare. Excuses are THE accountability devil, but there are very concrete and tangible ways to help you avoid poor rationalizations. I use the words concrete and tangible with intense literalism, as creating concrete goals will help you hold yourself accountable. Let’s say you come up with a fitness and nutrition plan in your head… everyone knows that changing a plan is one of the easiest things we can do. In less than a second you can decide that today’s workout can wait until tomorrow, or that dinner can be a big fat fried chimichanga because you ate “well” the rest of the day. Write stuff down.fitness Write it down, not on a computer, but with a paper on a poster with a pen. I want you to experience the feeling of seeing your regimen on the wall every morning when you wake up to realize you didn’t hit your goals yesterday. You are far less likely to screw up today if you practice this regimen. Pick up the pen, write down your mistakes. Take it in and move on. Tell your partner, mom, dad, sister, brother, mailman, dog and the bus boy at your favorite restaurant what your goals are. Are they going to hold you accountable every single day? Probably not, but if they are good people they are going to ask you how you are doing from time to time. Do you really want to tell them that you sat in your closet last night eating the entire bag of Cool Ranch Doritos, dipping them in tear-diluted sour cream? Probably not, so the next time you reach for those chips you can think of your accountability partners and how proud they would be that you are accomplishing your goals. Find some people who will hold you accountable today!
A great tool for accountability is getting your fitness life together with a friend or in a group. I’ve heard that the monthly online and private challenge groups I run are great for this :), but I may be a little biased (no really, they’re great!) If you decide to partake in a home-workout journey, ask your spouse to join you. If it motivates you when your wife is working hard because you feel guilty that you are not, GREAT (if it gets you moving)! If you are motivated by bruising your husband’s ego and embarrassing the crap out of him with your impeccable burpee skills, thats great, too. Sure, you may have very questionable morals, but you are still working out! People tend to work better in groups, and there are enough quality studies out there to prove this. The next time you are in your classroom, have your kids try and solve an impossible problem alone, then have them try it in a group. Watch how many fewer kids decide to give up when they have friends to help them achieve a goal. I know that we all hold ourselves accountable for the happenings in the classroom, so don’t hesitate to translate this to your personal life.