Have you tried to line up good accountability in the past, but ended up feeling frustrated? Accountability gone-wrong can indeed do more damage than good.
Whether the person who said they would root for us seems to have forgotten us or the team we joined somehow left us in the dust, when accountability takes a wrong turn we often stop dead in the tracks of our anticipated progress.
It took a lot of courage to
- admit you have a problem or goal or weakness
- explain the situation in detail
- ask for encouragement and accountability
- track, check in and ‘fess up
- and be painfully honest.
When we lay our vulnerabilities out on the line for someone to see and then we realize they’re not really “there for us” after all, we feel like more than our dirty laundry has been exposed. Our hearts feel trampled, our egos bruised and our personal goals minimized and squashed.
So we don’t want that to happen.
Accountability is a Tool in Your Toolbox, Not an Instrument of Punishment or Torture
I’ve discovered that nothing beats personal accountability. Hands down, the most compelling form of accountability in my life has been setting myself up to answer to another person. At various times I’ve:
- enlisted a mentor to ask me the hard questions.
- confessed my sins and my struggles to a licensed biblical counselor.
- given my husband “permission” (ahem!) to bring bad habits or patterns to my attention.
- told people openly about my goals, locking myself in to deliver.
- joined friends in shared challenges.
But even these person-to-person alignments can take various forms. For instance, while I’m a proponent of hardcore questions and answers, daily goals and accomplishments and checklists, I’ve participated in much looser accountability with people, too.
When my friend Annie and I realized that we had both decided to change our eating habits and become more intentional about daily exercise, we decided to encourage one another. But rather than tell each other what we’d eaten each day or whether we’d exercised, we simply texted each other in the evenings reporting on our daily water consumption. Sure, that was a small part of the puzzle. But that daily H20 check-in was sufficient to keep us on our toes for a while.
Make it Work for You
Your accountability system doesn’t have to be a nosy person who’s all in your business. Like that? And remember, if you do seek out personal accountability from a friend, spouse, mentor or counselor, you want them to agree to gracious accountability. You can find out more about that in my previous post, but here’s a handy graphic for review.
Who might fit the bill? Look for someone who is spiritually mature and constantly growing themselves. Choose someone who either loves you well (think 1 Corinthians 13) or who is professionally trained to walk you through the process (think AA mentor, Weight Watchers leader, biblical counselor or certified physical trainer). And choose someone who is characteristically gracious. That doesn’t mean you’re looking for a softy, by the way. It means you want someone who is firm, for you and favorable toward you.
What About Those Other Options?
Depending on the struggle, growth goal or weakness, I’ve used other formats of accountability. Here are a few you might be interested in.
For Physical Fitness
I prefer not to have too many people all up in my business when it comes to my weight and physical fitness. However, I do need structure and accountability. After a lifetime of regular exercise, I’ve found I also need someone or something to push me forward in this area so that I don’t grow too comfortable with routine.
In the past, I’ve used the Weight Watcher’s app, and it’s a great one. If you’re familiar with their point system, the app is a great place to plug in your daily intake. There is a fee, but I find that shelling out the dough is a HUGE accountability factor for me. If I pay for it, I’m going to do the thing and do it right! Are you that way, too?
But right now I’m involved in the FASTer Way to Fat Loss Program with Amanda Tress. Having done similar programs before, I can tell you this is the best. In fact, for me there is no going back. I will be living according to the fitness principles taught and practiced in this program for a long, long time.
The FASTer Way to Fat Loss is based on intermittent fasting (not nearly as scary as it sounds!), calculating your macros (protein, fat & carbs), eating clean and healthy food, building muscle for fat burning and limited cardio. I love the variety of exercises we do, the intensity level of the program and the friendly (gracious) accountability.
So what are the accountability factors in the FASTer Way? When you join the 6-week program, you turn in your weight and measurements, but then you are told to stay off the scales! You’re building muscle, so the scales will lie. You are put in a private Facebook group with about 49 other women who are in the program and a few coaches. You have the ability in the Facebook group to ask any question (with no shame) and get lots of encouragement from fellow sojourners. The group is completely confidential. But most importantly, you are asked to post a screen shot of the macros you ate each day, as calculated on My Fitness Pal (a free app, easy to use). This screenshot is examined by Amanda and your coaches to see if you are eating enough calories and nutrients.
This kind of accountability really works for me. It’s gracious, friendly, community-based. I absolutely love it, and I’m thriving on this program. Of course there is a fee for the program, but as I said, that works for me, too.
If you’re looking for a fitness/nutrition program with gracious accountability, I urge you to look into the FASTer Way to Fat Loss. You do need to be in reasonably good health to do the exercises. Oh, but there are beginner, home and gym workouts, too. It’s just very user-friendly.
For Spiritual Growth:
To help me read through the Bible I have used Bibles constructed for that purpose. Just having the scripture portioned into daily readings is usually enough to propel me to the end. I’ve used several of these, but my favorite has been Charles Stanley’s Life Principles Daily Bible.
The best way I’ve found to ensure that I complete working through a Bible study on a regular basis is to participate in a live class. In fact, I teach the classes. I highly encourage you to find an ongoing group Bible study class to participate in. If an online class is enough to keep you engaged, then do it. I’ve successfully completed online classes before, but they were ones that I found extremely compelling and relevant. Otherwise I doubt I would have been as successful.
Here’s a great downloadable PDF I prepared several years ago called 9 Tips for Completing a Bible Study. You won’t be surprised to find several tips that involve accountability!
I keep myself accountable in scripture memorization by creating a 4×6 photo album of my chosen verses. I add a scripture on the 1st and 15th of the month, and I practice these verses at least every morning, sometimes more often. During some seasons of my life I have enlisted a friend to whom I recited my verses once a month. How hard is that? And it’s a great way to share what God is doing in your life with someone you love!
Finally, you can read my posts about why and how I sought out a mentor here. Honestly, enlisting and sticking with a mentor has been one of the best decisions of my life. No exaggeration. And I’m 53, y’all! But she truly gives me gracious accountability as a woman in ministry, the mother of adult children and a pastor’s wife.
For My Brain
As we get older, it’s all the more important that we keep learning new things. The process of learning uses our brains in a way that stays off mental fog and even senility. That’s why I practice my Italian everyday with Duolingo. It’s a simple and fun app that helps you learn a second language.
This app compels me to stay committed to language practice because it sends me notices throughout the day that challenge me to keep up my 278 day streak (as of today)! But I’ve also joined a group in the app that is for “serious Italian students,” which threatens to “kick me out” if I don’t prove to be committed. Ha! That definitely keeps me accountable. I don’t want to be kicked to the curb!
But even if you’re not interested in learning a new language, I encourage you to use apps on your phone or pad that do more than ring bells because you’ve squashed candy pieces, or whatever. Fly Lady helped me manage my household duties when I was younger. First 5 has an alarm to wake you up and take you immediately to your daily Bible reading and devotional. What apps have you found that keep you accountable, that stretch you and compel you to be your best?
If you didn’t get to read the first of this two-part series on accountability, you might be a little confused! 🙂 You’ll find the biblical rational for seeking out gracious accountability. You can find my first post here.