The Power of Accountability
It’s not just about what you are accountable for, it’s about who you hold yourself accountable to.
Last month a friend of mine, Harold, held his annual blood drive in Malibu California and I was all set to go give blood when work -life- got in the way and I had to cancel. Harold said “No problem, just promise me that you’ll donate within the next two weeks!” I promised that I would.
Two weeks went by and I was so busy that I completely forgot about my promise. I was working, camping, beaching, swimming, writing, doing a lot … but not donating blood. Then over a month later, seemingly out of the blue, I remembered my promise (out of the blue or out of my subconscious?). More than remembering my promise, I remembered who I made the promise to and that’s what really stuck. Seventeen years ago Harold gave one of his kidneys to a complete stranger. He didn’t have to do it. He wasn’t forced to do it. He did it out of the kindness of his heart and he saved a life. That is the type of person I look up to. Kind, compassionate, giving, courageous and accountable to a point that he even gave up a piece of himself (literally) …and that’s why my level of accountability was so high.
So I learned a big lesson today when I went to donate blood. As I sat there with a needle in my arm slowly filling up a pint bag with AB negative, I realized that WHO we make ourselves accountable to is just as important as WHAT we hold ourselves accountable for. Because I made a promise to someone I look up to and find inspiring, I kept my promise. I may have been a little late but the bottom line it is, I did it.
Courage (n): mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty — Merriam Webster Dictionary.
The word courage is derived from many languages but it all comes down to heart: “Old French corage “heart, innermost feelings or temper,”. Latin cor “heart” or inner strength. In Middle English, used broadly for “what is in one’s mind or thoughts,” hence “bravery,” but also “wrath, pride, confidence, lustiness,” or any sort of inclination.””— Online Etymology Dictionary.
Accountability takes courage. And the reason why it sucks so bad when we hold ourselves accountable for something and don’t do it is because it actually hurts our heart. It takes courage to make a promise if you have even the slightest instinct to follow it through. Life changes so fast that it’s easy for things to get in the way of keeping a promise and if you have integrity then promises actually mean something to you — that’s called accountability.
So how can this be used to your advantage? If you really want to hold yourself accountable for something and you have a hard time sticking to promises that you make to yourself in the bathroom mirror, bring someone else into the mix, someone you look up to, someone you trust. Have them hold you accountable, and if you happen to screw up the first time around, try, try, try again until you succeed. Ultimately you have to be accountable for yourself and your actions in the end but if you pay close attention to what makes you feel good — in the long run and not just in a hedonistic manner — then you’ll have an easier time. And when you look in that bathroom mirror you’ll be really proud of who’s looking back at you.
On the flip side, if you want people to be accountable to you, be the person you would be accountable to. Set the example. Be the good, the honest, the hard-working, the kind, the compassionate, the giving, the amazing that inspires you in others and more and more of those people will show up for you.
What I found interesting while doing research for this article is that if you search “accountability” a ton of business articles come up. Sure, accountability is super important in business but shouldn’t we start with the basics of accountability regardless of whether we are talking business or personal matters? And shouldn’t accountability really start with ourselves? Yes sometimes we need a little help, we need to know what tools we can use to help us stick to our promises, however it has to start from within. There have to be some core values in place.
Accountability is not only about doing good, its about being good. It’s about living with integrity and making promises that mean something. It’s about finding a way to show up and be present without expecting a certain outcome. So find ways to be accountable to YOU, even if you start with little things like being a better listener just for one conversation (accountability to be more present), not hitting the snooze button (accountability to your decision to get up early) or even just stopping the car to appreciate a beautiful sunset (accountability to take time to appreciate the little things).
Be accountable and be present to your higher self, to your inner child, to your wild, to your crazy, to your cool, to your calm, to your collected… and you may just find yourself waking up a a little lighter, a little happier, a little freer, a little more centered and a little more courageous.