I’ve come to learn that setting goals is the easy part. The real test comes in when it’s time to knuckle down and get to work to ensure that those goals are achieved. In highschool, it was always drilled into us that our goals need to be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timebound). And whilst at the time, I didn’t fully internalise it or see it as anything more than a homework task, I’ve learnt that the more detailed a goal is, the easier it is to identify how to get there.
Holding yourself accountable is tough. But it is also necessary. It can be easy to slip into complacency and put the hard work off when we’re not actively checking in with ourselves about our progress. The simplest yet most effective way I hold myself accountable is by talking about my goals to people I trust. I’ll tell my parents or friends, and that way, not only do they hold me accountable and push me, but they also celebrate with me when I achieve. I tell different people depending on what aspect of my life the goal I’m trying to achieve falls under. For example, when I’m trying to get back into healthy eating and working out, my best friend will be my accountability buddy. We’ll send each other pictures of our meals, voice notes on how we’re feeling and what exercise we’ve done and just generally keep each other motivated. It may seem like something simple, but it has proved to be incredibly effective.
Another thing that I enjoy about sharing my goals with people who I love and trust, is that they keep me in check. I tend to hold myself to impossibly high standards. So having people to talk to and bounce my goals off helps me to manage my expectations and allows me the space to recognise when I’m being unrealistic or too hard on myself. Sometimes, it’s hard to hear. But, it helps me immensely.
It’s also important to be realistic. Whilst holding yourself accountable is essential, sometimes life just doesn’t go to plan, and you can’t run as many times as you would have liked in a week, or something comes up and you don’t have enough hours to study for that test to get an A. It’s okay. Being flexible and adapting your path to reach your goals is all part of it. So yes, having a plan and mapping out your “stepping stones” is important, but it’s also important to recognise that sometimes we need to shift the stepping stones a little to overcome things we couldn’t have anticipated.
Everyone’s goal-setting methods look a little different, so how you choose to practice accountability comes down to personal preference. Try a few methods and then go with what feels right for you. Keep adapting and shifting as you grow and learn what allows you to feel most in control and happy.
Originally written for Comeback Magazine