commitment and accountability

Commitment and accountability are tough, for most people. Committing to something is a profound declaration to the world that you are going to face challenges, and stay with what comes up, no matter what. It’s practically daring the world to start testing you. And yet? You know that everything you want is on the other side of those tests, those places you’ll stretch past in order to grow. Commitment and accountability are required.

So you want to know: How can I do something, say I’m going to do it, and then see it through? How can I practice true commitment and accountability ?

You commit.
And then you are accountable.

People want more of a formula for that, more tips, more tricks. In The Courage Habit, I lay out the ways in which the brain forms habits, and how it’s possible to use habit-formation to stop the loop of old, fear-based habits and start creating new, courage-based habits.

But if someone isn’t willing to commit to the process of change? And be accountable to that process? Not much will move.

Think of any goal you’ve ever set that came to fruition. Did it happen without commitment? Did it happen without accountability? Nope. If you want to be healthier, that doesn’t happen in day. It happens because you commit to being healthier and you make choices that are accountable to that commitment. If you want to have a better marriage, that doesn’t happen because of one couples therapy session. It happens because you commit to doing the work of having a better marriage, and then make choices that are accountable to that commitment. If you want to own your own business, that doesn’t happen by a stroke of luck. It happens because you commit to building the business and then stay accountable to that commitment.

There’s a huge misperception that commitment and accountability are…well, the best I can do to describe this misperception would be with a sound: “Ugh!”

As in, “Ugh! I haaaaate having to be so accountable!” Understandably, people feel pressure about what it’s going to take to commit to something and be accountable to something.

This, then, is your invitation: you’re the one assuming that commitment and accountability have to be a bummer. It is absolutely possible to see commitment and accountability as enlivening, an adventure, a journey to undertake, an exciting process where you get to see what you’re made of. You can put your focus on the work, or you can put your focus on how proud you’ll be when you get to the other side. It’s the difference between climbing a mountain and bemoaning the work it takes to climb the mountain, or climbing a mountain and feeling your tired legs but smiling because it’s going to be so awesome to get to the top.

Declaring Commitment

Should you declare your commitment? Does that make it more likely that you’ll succeed?

It can be good to know whether or not to say something. When a new dream or an ambitious plan is fertile and just being birthed, sometimes we need to hold it close to ourselves, so that it can’t be tainted by other people’s judgments or opinions.

It can be the hallmark of self-sabotage to tell someone what we’re doing–especially if you notice that you always seem to tell the person who is most likely to criticize or downplay what you do.

The flip-side, however, is that at some point, we need to tell people about our goals, our dreams, our lifestyle changes, because again and again it seems that when we tell people what we do, we automatically become more accountable and more likely to commit to and then finish what we start.

Tell only the people who you trust will support you, and even among supportive people, tell few. Sometimes people think they are being supportive when they offer caution. Personally, I believe that my experience will be my own experience, and for that reason I prefer not to hear cautionary tales. Just because someone else had a bad experience with something, doesn’t mean that I will, so hearing about their bad experience isn’t usually helpful unless they know that someone I might be about to hire tends not to walk with a lot of integrity–things like that.

At some point, do start being public. Declare what you are doing. And then be prepared to let other people’s opinions about it roll right off your back. See that as part of the process.

Or–even better?–declare what you are doing, while sharing from the get-go that “at this time, I’m not feeling open to feedback.”

True, people might not honor that that request and they might still throw out their opinions, anyway, and yet there is such value in declaring for yourself what you need.

When do you start?

Great question–you start…now.

Not Monday.
Not the first day of the next calendar month.
Not on New Year’s.

When you feel the rush of inspiration to write a book, travel, speak up on behalf of a cause, don’t waste time with plotting the perfect time to start.

Just start.

If you want to write a book, you start writing.
If you want to become a runner, you start running.
If you want a better marriage, you start taking a breath when you interact.
If you want to spark a movement, you start speaking up.
If you want to start a business, you learn about marketing or sign up for training.

If you sincerely feel that there’s personal work you need to do before you can get out there, you utilize books, programs, and other resources to do that work–now, today, not tomorrow or weeks from now.

So there you go. Those are the marching orders. You commit. You stay accountable to that commitment. If you tell others, tell them with care. And? You just start.