Hi folks, this post comes from Erin Power, coaching director for Primal Health Coach Institute. Erin plans to post frequently to share the tips, tools, and proven strategies she’s used with her clients, students, and graduates over the past decade regarding motivation, inspiration, and achieving goals. Enjoy!
You’ve likely seen the stats. Up to 92% of people never get the satisfaction of achieving their goals. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Maybe your goal is to stick to a six-hour eating window. Or improve the quality of your sleep. Or stop consuming industrialized oils.
All fantastic goals.
But without the right approach, you’ll be joining the ranks of the defeated faster than you can say metabolic flexibility.
Why Accountability Is Key
You might be telling yourself, “I’ve always been addicted to sugar”, or “these extra 40 pounds just love me too much.” While those statements might have been true for you in the past, there’s a big difference between people who reach their goals (i.e. get off the sugar addiction rollercoaster or drop the weight for good) and those who don’t.
And that’s accountability.
Personally, I love teaching my clients to be responsible for their own actions, versus relying on me to hold them accountable. I provide the education and support, but when it comes to accountability, it’s best to be your own biggest advocate. That means taking charge of your circumstances by getting clear on your goals—and the reasons why you want to achieve those goals. There’s plenty of science behind this approach too.
In 1977, social cognitive psychologist, Albert Bandura proposed a concept he referred to as self-efficacy. It’s the idea that if people believe they can change their behaviors, they’ll be more successful at doing so. Dozens of studies have been published based on the topic, including this one that investigated the effects of self-efficacy on weight loss. During the study, overweight subjects were assigned to high or low self-efficacy groups and told to follow a weight loss program within the context of self-control. As you might expect, researchers found that the high self-efficacy group lost substantially more weight than their low-efficacy counterparts.
Another way to stay accountable is to have a partner—someone who has the same, or similar goals, as you do. Together, you commit to taking the necessary steps to lock in new behaviors, checking in with each other regularly and holding each other accountable. It could be in the form of a gym buddy, a co-worker you walk with at lunch, or an online group focused on intermittent fasting.
And I’m not alone on this theory.
In a study conducted by Dominican University of California psychology professor, Dr. Gail Matthews, participants wrote down their goals, then half the group was asked to send regular progress reports to a friend. The results showed that the group who had an accountability partner was 76.7% more successful at achieving their goals than the group that didn’t.
I’m actually using an accountability partner right now to make sure I’m up at 5:00 a.m. for gratitude practice and meditation. We call each other at 5:15 every morning to see if we’re awake and haven’t mashed the snooze button (we’ve also committed to getting to bed no later than 9:30 p.m. so we aren’t skimping on sleep). Because we have the same goal, it works beautifully.
My 5 Step Accountability Plan
Here’s a tool you can use to develop accountability on both a personal and peer-to-peer level. Create your plan by answering these five questions:
What’s your specific goal?
Rather than attempting to: “skip the banana and yogurt and instead break the fast with an epic protein-forward meal”, get more detailed by saying, “Tomorrow for my break-the-fast meal, I’ll fry up three eggs and one of those sausages I got from the farmer’s market.” Specificity makes it easier to know if and when you’ve reached your goal. Like I mentioned above, you can increase your accountability by partnering with someone who has similar goals as you do. (Maybe you think it sounds strange to have an accountability partner for breakfast, but in the name of achieving your health goals, why not?)
What new habits will you put into place?
To be successful, you have to identify the actions you’ll be taking—ask yourself what you’ll be doing and when you’ll be doing them. Using the example above, you’d need to figure out:
what time you’ll want to eat breakfast
whether you’ll need to set your alarm 15 minutes earlier to have the time to prepare it
whether you’ll need to run to the store on the way home from work tonight to pick up some eggs or butter
how you’ll track your progress on this goal.
How will you assess how you’re doing?
Check in with yourself regularly. Using a tracking app or journal is a great way to monitor your progress. These methods make it really easy to see if you’re being consistent with your actions, plus the act of recording your new behavior helps you feel successful as you work toward your goal. If you’re working with an accountability partner, you still can—and should—track your progress, but it’s also important to schedule regular appointments with each other to check in.
What’s your why?
You might discover that you’re not being as consistent with your actions as you’d like. That’s where finding your why comes in. Really thinking about why this goal is important to you and why that matters can help solidify your actions. It might also make you realize that your goal isn’t realistic—or it’s not as important as you once thought. Use my Whyx5 Method to help uncover your true motivation for change.
What are the consequences of not reaching your goal?
Behavior change can be hard, but often times doing nothing—or sabotaging your own efforts—ends up being harder in the long run. Visualize how you’ll feel if you don’t hold yourself accountable. And in contrast, how will you feel if you do?
How to Create an Accountability Plan
I can’t say it enough. One of the most common differences between people who reach their goals and those who don’t is accountability. Being responsible for your own actions is key if you want to be successful. And partnering up with someone who has similar goals is like the protein-packed icing on the cake. Got goals you’ve been trying to reach? Create your own accountability plan by following these five steps:
Erin Power is an NBHWC board-certified health coach and the Coaching and Curriculum Director for Primal Health Coach Institute. She’s also the co-host of Health Coach Radio, the podcast by health coaches, for health coaches. Erin lives outside of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, on a hobby farm in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.