“The price of greatness is responsibility.” – Winston Churchill
With the new year around the corner, you may be thinking about how you want things to be different. At the same time, you might remember how, in the past, you started off the new year with the best intentions only to lose steam by February.
Have you had this happen to you? How many times have you tried to make a significant change but could not sustain the smaller day to day changes needed after the initial euphoria faded? This disappointing and frustrating experience is familiar to most of us.
You can turn that pattern around with accountability.
Accountability is taking personal responsibility for what we say we want to achieve. It is a tool for growth and success that sets up checks and balances to keep us moving forward.
Whatever you want to achieve or change, there is a gap between where you are now and where you want to be. Just like a bird learning to fly, you become aware of the difference between gravity holding your two feet on the ground and letting the strength of your wings help you soar in the air.
Experts say that birds learn to fly because of two things, instinct and practice. Most birds have the instinct to fly (except penguins and ostriches). According to psychologist Abraham Maslow, well known for his humanistic theory and hierarchy of needs, the human instinct is to achieve our maximum potential. We will always do so unless obstacles are in our way.
You may have the instinct to go further in your career or life or change direction for something more purposeful. You can become aware of and remove any blocks to following this instinct within you to accomplish this.
Once you are clear about and committed to your potential, you will need to practice making the choices and behaviors that nurture it. Imagine if a bird could study all the mechanics of flying, understand how to control the muscles needed to sustain their wingspan and know how to use the wind to lift off and control landings; it still wouldn’t be a guarantee that it could fly. It would have to practice.
To get the necessary practice, birds are pushed out of the nest by their parents or left alone to fend for themselves, forcing them to fly eventually. Who is pushing you out of your nest? Who is holding you accountable to your instincts to grow your opportunities and develop your talents?
Most successful people set up a system to help them be accountable for their dreams, visions and goals. They know that the real obstacle they must overcome on the road to achievement is inertia. In physics, the Law of Inertia proposed by Sir Isaac Newton states that if a body is at rest or moving at a constant speed in a straight line, it will remain at rest or keep moving in a straight line at constant speed unless it is acted upon by a force.
In other words, you need an external force that will create momentum and prompt you to consistently think, speak and act differently so you can achieve what you want. Otherwise, inertia will keep you right where you are, with both feet glued to the ground.
This force is an accountability system that keeps you aware of what you are doing, making intentional choices and refining your results. Accountability prevents you from falling back into previous thought patterns, speech and actions that reinforce the status quo instead of pulling you towards a different future. You avoid becoming the bird who settles into the nest rather than risk falling flat on its beak. You don’t trade the fulfillment of your potential for the momentary illusion of comfort and security that inertia offers.
The pain of not honoring your instincts.
As you may have experienced, the comfort and security of inertia never last. Eventually, the pain of not following your instincts to grow and develop is just as bad, if not worse, than the pain of failure. The resentment, disappointment and anger that fester from not trying are just as challenging to process as those same negative feelings that result from failing. But with failure, you at least gave yourself a chance. Which would you rather endure, nursing a broken beak or slowly withering away powerlessly as you hunker down right where you are?
The more significant the gap between where you are and where your potential is, the more uncomfortable you will be practicing these new choices and actions. For some, “new and different” can be thrilling, especially at the beginning, when we are enthusiastic about possibilities. For others, change is terrifying. Either way, after you have initiated change, the comforting lure of the status quo can tempt you to slow us down or even stop altogether.
How to be accountable.
Once you honor your instincts to move forward, the key to success rests on accountability. For many of us, it is easier to hang out in our “nests.” As long as our situation isn’t critical, we can easily give up our dreams, visions and goals. Here are some ways you can stay accountable so that you can take flight in 2021:
- Join or create a group of motivated individuals who share a common goal to encourage and help each other improve.
- Commit your future vision to paper and work backward from that with a series of smaller goals and behavior changes needed to take you there. Review it at regular intervals.
- Verbally declare your vision and what you will do differently to a trusted colleague, friend or mentor who will agree to be your accountability partner.
- Work with a professional coach to prioritize and schedule time entirely focused on you, your vision and your results in an honest and non-judgmental way.
They say practice makes perfect. I say practice makes possible. What will you make possible for yourself in 2021?
Work Your Inner Genius: Let Newton’s Law of Inertia help you become more aware of how you are ignoring your instinct to grow and develop towards your potential.
- How are you “staying at rest” in your career or life? I am not talking about time to pause and recharge, which is necessary to keep a healthy balance. How are you allowing the status quo to keep you somewhat happy and satisfied instead of thrilled and invigorated about waking up each day?
- How are you “moving in a straight line at constant speed?” There is nothing wrong with this if you are headed in the right direction. Are you?
- What “force” is acting upon you to create consistent growth and development towards your dreams or future vision? Are you leaving this force up to fate, waiting for external events to push you? Or are you creating an accountability system that keeps you honest and respectful to what you say you want?