Who's Your Accountability Buddy?

Is there something in your life that you've been trying to do but just haven't been able to get it done? Maybe it's time for an accountability buddy!

Is there something in your life that you've been trying to do but just haven't been able to get it done? Like losing those few extra pounds but just can't? Exercising more but it's not happening? Starting your own business but not getting it off the ground? Doing that new hobby but not making the time? Maybe it's time for an accountability buddy!

Accountability partners can be near or far. They can be friends or acquaintances. They can be for work, exercise, diet, fun—anything you are trying to make happen in your life but are having trouble doing on your own. For work, I've got two accountability partners. Varsha is my Monday at 1:30pm accountability partner and Kenn is my Friday at 11:30am one. Varsha lives in London and I live in California, but distance is not a barrier for us. We talk via Skype. If there is a time when we can't make it, we email our goals for the week. We are both trying to grow our own businesses (and I'm trying to get my book published) so we are helping each other stay on track with weekly tasks to move forward. Being in business for myself is great, but motivation for progress has to come from within since I am the boss. I set my own deadlines, so if I miss them, I only have to answer to myself. Varsha is a friend from graduate school and is in the health field as well, Illuminated Health, so it's helpful to have her to bounce ideas off of since she understands my business.

Kenn, on the other hand, is someone I just recently met and is not in my same field. He creates websites, Coaching Sites That Work. I met Kenn through a LinkedIn group. After a few exchanges, Kenn said he liked my vibe and wanted to know if I was interested in talking regularly to help each other stay accountable. There are benefits to having an accountability buddy where there isn't the familiarity of friendship. With Kenn, I feel a little more push to meet my deadlines. Kenn is not in my same line of work, bringing a different perspective to the conversation. I am enjoying having my two work accountability buddies that each bring something unique to our collaboration.

Kenn has been good about helping me see the value in the quick win. For example, last Friday I set my goal as, "I'm going to send my book proposal to five publishers next week." Kenn nudged me to break it down even more by identifying that day one of the publishers I would be sending it to. He then asked if I could commit to sending out one proposal on Monday. This way I would get the quick win of having taken a first step at the beginning of the week to get the momentum going rather than starting the week with the big lofty goal of five for the week. I had already identified one by the time I was off the call with him and today I know I have to send one out. These little wins help us get past the stuck spots.

For exercise, I have a few ways I stay accountable. On Thursdays, I meet with a group of women to run. We call it "RePeets" because we meet at Peet's coffee shop so that after we are done running repeats, we can enjoy a drink together. This run happens regularly every Thursday at 9am, rain or shine. There are enough people on the list so that on any given day, anywhere from two to ten women will be there. We're accountable to each other. You can set up a Facebook group to keep in touch or an email distribution list. I've created a group on Facebook for weekly Saturday trail runs I coordinate. This list has grown organically to 98 members just through word of mouth. If I stop posting runs, I'll get asked by others on the list about where the weekend run is. I have no doubt that if I didn't set up this group, I would have run half as much on the trails as I did this summer. The accountability encouraged me to make it happen. It was something I wanted to do, but I needed that push.

For diet, I've had clients who find it helpful to email me their food journal daily. Having the accountability of knowing that someone will be seeing what they ate helps them to make better choices. I have another client who uses My Fitness Pal, an online diet and fitness community, to track her food and exercise. She has friends who also use this online tool and she can see what her friends have posted and vice versa.

I mention all of these examples to emphasize the point that there are many ways to set up accountability for all areas of your life. It's about stating it publicly and putting yourself on the hook. In my recent blog post, See It. Say It. Do It., I mentioned that when I was training for my first marathon seven years ago, I read The Non-Runner's Marathon Trainer and it said to tell one new person every day that "I am a marathoner." It's about accountability and putting your goal out there. Every day I did tell someone new that I was training for a marathon and it made it more and more of a reality. It became a goal I was truly committed to.

Here are a few steps you can take to help get you started:

1. Identify the area(s) in your life that you want to move forward but have been unable to do so on your own.

2. Find an accountability partner. This can be a friend, an acquaintance, a group, or an online connection.

3. Set up regular check-in dates via phone, Skype, or email. This is a very important step to making this work.

4. Set weekly, manageable goals to help each other stay on track. (Remember to set up those quick wins too to get the momentum going).

I want to hear from you. What area(s) in your life do you need an accountability buddy and how are you going to make it happen?

Dina Colman, MA, MBA, is a healthy living coach and writer. She has her Master’s degree in Holistic Health Education from John F. Kennedy University and her MBA from Kellogg at Northwestern University. She founded Four Quadrant Living—a simpler, natural, more fun way to a healthier, happier, and energetic life. Four Quadrant Living provides information and motivation for healthy living through nourishment of the four quadrants of our lives—Mind, Body, Relationships, and Environment. Dina has a private practice, working with clients to help them create health in their lives by eating well, finding the fun in exercise, reducing stress, managing relationships, and creating a healthy environment. Dina is also writing a book about healthy living that will be published in 2013. Contact Dina at dina@fourquadrantliving.com

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