It simply means you choose to take responsibility for your words, actions, and behaviours, and for the outcomes that they produce, managing those outcomes if necessary. And that you do what you tell yourself you will do.
How to sabotage personal accountability
Not sure if you are or aren’t holding yourself accountable? Consider the following ‘accountability killers’.
1. Justifying your behaviours.
“It’s not that I meant to be late with this outline for the project, it’s just that I have family stress, and the deadline wasn’t realistic. Plus, you were late on the last outline, and things were fine in the end, weren’t they?”
Why do we justify our lack of accountability? It’s down to what’s known as ‘cognitive dissonance’. The difference between what we want to be real, and what is real, and in this case the dissonance is with our own self image.
In their book, Mistakes Were Made But Not By Me, Tavris and Aronson explain,“When we make mistakes, we must calm the cognitive dissonance that jars our feelings of self-worth. And so we create fictions that absolve us of responsibility, restoring our belief that we are smart, moral, and right—a belief that is dumb, immoral, and wrong.”
“I know I said I would put myself out there, and I’m sure she is a nice girl, but I’m so tired with work lately, and it’s so much effort to get to downtown, I’ll date again when this project wraps up…”.
The mind is a fabulous thing. We can use it to create and rationalise any manner of stories if we want to convince ourselves of something. But if you are using it to not be accountable to things you’ve committed to, you’re only holding yourself back.
3. Playing the ‘poor me’ soundtrack.
“It’s not fair, nobody understands, I am only struggling this much because he made me feel so bad in my last performance review, and you know as a child I was always called stupid.”
Welcome to victim mode. It’s the fastest way to let yourself off the hook. But we are all adults here. And adults have personal power.
Yes, sometimes bad things happen to good people. But we are responsible to dust off and find ways forward, instead of sitting on the spot blaming everyone.
The benefits of personal accountability
In society, groups, and organisations, accountability leads to acceptance, accolades, and avoiding various forms of punishment.
But what about personal accountability? When often, nobody else is even watching? What are the benefits of that?
When you begin to take accountability, you start being there for yourself. You can relax and trust yourself to not sabotage but to carry through.
4. Your relationships improve.
It seems feeling accountable makes for better relating with others.
A 2005 study on students found that when encouraged to take personal responsibility, their social interactions were better.
3 Ways to boost your accountability
So then how to stop letting yourself down all the time?
1. Keep your eyes on your values.
It’s hard to be accountable if we hate what we are doing in life and it feels like pushing through sand.
Your personal values are what you care about when everything else falls away.Learning what you value, as opposed to what you think you should value, can help you narrow in on what you really want in life.
2. Work on recognising and changing limiting beliefs.
Always sabotage yourself? Go out drinking the night you are to set up your personal website, forget to call that job lead after promising yourself for days you would?