We’ve all heard that word – accountability – but how do we achieve it ourselves? For some of us, especially when implementing lifestyle changes, holding ourselves accountable doesn’t exactly come naturally.
“Accountability is an individual matter when it comes to healthy lifestyle goals,” says certified personal trainer Rachel MacPherson, who also writes at Radical Strength. “Everyone thrives on different levels of involvement from their friends, family or group.”
There are different tactics for encouraging accountability, and you’ll likely have to try a couple out to find your style. Maybe you can hold yourself accountable simply by setting goals and adding them to a list on your phone. Maybe you need a workout buddy or a meditation buddy to stay motivated. Maybe you need to post your fitness goals and achievements on social media. See what works for you.
“Research has shown that you are more likely to stick to a new habit when you have someone who is checking in on you to make sure you are following through,” says MacPherson.
“Sometimes though, we need more of a personal, day-to-day way of tracking our habits. Using calendars and planners that track our adherence to habits on a daily basis are helpful, especially for people who are motivated by seeing their progress visually on display.”
Try printing out a calendar you can stick on your fridge and use it to track a specific goal you’re working on – like drinking a glass of water every morning, working out or meditating. You can check off each day you’ve completed the task or goal and watch your checkmarks add up. You might find the idea of missing a checkmark a source of motivation and may find you’re energized by the growing number of days you’ve completed your goal. And if you hit a rut, you can use this visual progress to help you keep pushing forward.
“When life gets busy and we are stressed, it is valuable to be able to look back at our planners or calendars and see how far we have come. This alone can be enough to help us remember why we started in the first place,” says MacPherson.
If you’re focusing on lifestyle changes such as nutrition and exercise, she also recommends expanding your goals so they are not solely related to physical appearance – things such as feeling less stressed, having better-quality sleep, having more energy and feeling more confident.
One tried and true accountability tactic is looping in other people.
MacPherson suggests sharing your calendar with friends, on social media or in an accountability group as a way to help you stick with the habits you’ve been so diligently tracking.
Eddie Johnson, founder and CEO of Anabolic Bodies, also suggests involving other people in your goals.
“With so many people on social media, there are tons of fitness/diet groups you can join. Just sign up to one that is local and has similar health objectives to your own,” he says. “This will help you maintain a group accountability. When there are other like-minded people who will keep you on track, your chances of success are much higher. Even better, if you are struggling, all you need to do is give a group member a call.”
He also suggests setting rewards for yourself.
“Nobody can undertake a rigorous nutrition or fitness routine without seeing a light at the end of the tunnel,” he says.
This is where the oft-heard phrase ‘cheat day’ or ‘cheat meal’ comes in.
“A reward, or ‘cheat,’ lets you see that light on a weekly basis. It is a way for you to still enjoy some unhealthy habits, as long as you are staying on track and maintaining accountability,” Johnson says, adding that if you are struggling with sticking with your goals, a reward can offer you something to look forward to.
All these tools can help you hold yourself accountable so you can create long-lasting lifestyle improvements.
“Motivation and willpower can be short-lived,” MacPherson says, “so discipline and habit formation is key to adherence.”