How Accountability Makes Healthy Habits Happen
For the infographic associated with this article, go here.
Same Focus Habit, Different Outcomes
Allison decided this was the last time she was really going to make a change for her health. She was going to start and not stop because she was tired of how she felt and how she looked. She knew what she needed to do. Her first focus was to end after-dinner snacking. She had a strong why and specific plan. She even told her friends about it, like she had done before, but didn’t ask them to keep her accountable. Nor did she have a way to mark her progress.
If she had been marking her days of success on a calendar, she would have seen she was on point four out of seven days of the week for two weeks straight. She would have noticed how much better she was doing than she had previously done over the last several months, or years even. Unfortunately, Allison missed that progress. She began feeling defeated because she couldn’t resist the urge to snack after dinner every night since making this commitment to herself...again. So she gave up and quit because she thought she didn’t have the will power and would never find it.
Micah, on the other hand, made the same commitment of no more late-night snacking. And to help her stay on track, she started marking her days of progress on a calendar. As she continued to see the days with stars greatly outnumber the days without, she began to take more pride in her progress. Then it became a matter of not breaking the chain of stars. An occasional week here or there may have gone by with fewer stars, but she became determined to make next week even better.
Before Micah knew it, months had gone by and her new habit was formed. Now, she does it without thinking about it but still tracks her progress. It delights her to see a calendar full of stars, how far she has come, and how much she has accomplished doing something that had seemed impossible to tackle in the past. She is feeling better, looking better, and has even saved some money. Micah has also started implementing other healthy habits in her life.
Not Lack of Desire, Lack of Accountability
For Allison, it wasn’t a lack of desire that kept her from being successful at her late night snacking habit. It was her lack of an accountability system. She really wanted to change and she knew what she needed to do.
Micah made marking days of success on a calendar her accountability partner. It was a way she could visually see progress when maybe it didn’t show on the scale or in the mirror.
As simple as it is, giving yourself gold stars as a way of celebrating your mini-victories can play a huge role in the success of creating sustainable healthy habits. We may be adults, but we still like to get gold stars and recognize our achievements.
The Stamp of Commitment
Coming up with an accountability plan means you are REALLY committed, you REALLY want the change. It is like a stamping I AM COMMITTED in big red letters over your goals. Without a system of accountability, you could fall off the horse and not get back on because you don’t have a system or a coach to push you back up or keep you from falling.
Therefore an accountability system is a requirement if you want to make changes for your health, especially if you have struggled in the past. It is actually one of three non-negotiables for success in creating sustainable healthy habits. The Right Mindset and the Right Plan are the other two components.
Setting up an accountability system may sound a little nerve-wracking. It makes me nervous because I can’t back out of the habits I am trying to create. Although it may seem like you are restricting yourself, you may just find it can be freeing to openly share your challenges and have accountability support.
Forms of Accountability
Giving yourself gold stars with a habit tracker isn’t the only form of accountability. Though it is one of the best, there are several other methods. Here is a brief overview of each:
1. Track on paper.
As mentioned in the examples above, tracking your progress on paper is a great way to visually see your progress in a very tangible form. You start creating a chain that you don’t want to break. The tracker can focus on weekly goals, monthly goals, or something you want to accomplish over a whole year. This can be in many forms from a calendar, a check sheet with boxes, or a graph you color in. Get creative and keep it in a very visible spot.
2. Get Technical.
Use technology to your advantage. Set up reminders on your phone. Download apps for inputting data with graphs, such as food logs and weight. Purchase programs that send you reminders or tasks to do. Invest in a smartwatch or fitness equipment with a subscription. When you invest in something, you are more likely to use it than if it was free.
3. Make it public.
Post your goal on social media along with your progress. There is a difference between being boastful and being open about your health journey. I love seeing people share their health journey successes and struggles on social media. You never know who you might motivate and encourage. People can also cheer you on.
4. Find a group.
A group supporting one another in health and wellness is one of the BEST forms of accountability. Everyone struggling together and encouraging one another is a wonderful support system. You can either get a group of friends together on a regular basis for check-ins or find a group led by a wellness professional. This can be more economical than hiring a private professional. The groups could be local or virtual.
5. Recruit family/friends.
Ask someone close to you whom you trust and know will check on your progress as an accountability partner. Share with them what you want to achieve, how often you want them to check-in, and ways they could best support you. You want to pick someone you know will really follow through, provide you encouragement, challenge you, and most importantly, call you out when you don’t stick to your habit.
6. Hire a coach.
If you need very specific guidance and desire more one-on-one help, hiring a wellness professional will be your best form of accountability. You are 95% more likely to reach your goal working with one. It can be a pricey investment, but it may be well worth the cost if it keeps you on the path you so desperately want. Finding a nutrition, health, or wellness coach who is a good fit for you is very important. So take the time to shop around, ask for referrals, and when you talk with him or her, ask lots of questions so you get a feel for what it is like to work with them.
Base your selection on what you feel you need most and will keep you the most honest. You may need more than one accountability method. For example, use a simple calendar to visually see your progress and then also find a group to support and encourage you.
Evaluate If It Isn’t Working
If you have tried a system for accountability and it didn’t work, one of these things could be to blame:
- Your mindset isn’t that of a victor and your heart isn’t fully in it.
- You didn’t have a simple, clear, specific, written down plan.
- Your accountability partner wasn’t reliable therefore not the *right* accountability.
For more on #1, go to our article Shifting the Focus from Losing Weight to Gaining Life.
For more on #2, see our article 5 Simple Steps to Create Sustainable Habits.
Before you change your accountability, you must clarify and improve #1 and #2.
But if you feel you have the right mindset and the right plan, then think about changing your accountability.
Maybe you don’t have a designated calendar just for trying your habit, so your stars get lost or you forget. Maybe the app you use to track what you eat is too time-consuming. Perhaps the friend you asked to keep you accountable isn’t very reliable. It could be the group you joined isn’t very committed. Or maybe the coach you hired isn’t a good fit.
Experiment, Just Don’t Give Up
You may have to experiment to find what will work best for you. You may need to try a completely different accountability method or the same method but a different type or a couple of different methods, if needed.
Whatever the case, just don’t give up on your health and wellness. This is a process you have to work at.
For the bare minimum, use a paper tracker. It is a great way to “see” your progress. It is cheap, and something you can be proud of. We actually have a free one you can use in the Healthy Habits Starter Guide. Download it, fill out the worksheet, and start marking your days of success. See how many gold stars you can give yourself over the next four weeks. The time will go by, and before you realize it, you will have one month of progress toward the wellness you need behind you.
One client stated that hiring a coach to help keep you accountable may be “the best personal investment” for your health you’ll ever make. If you want to learn more about how our Healthy Habits Coaches can support you, schedule a 20 minute consultation call.
The question is...as you work on your healthy habits, what are you using to keep you accountable? Share in the comments below.
To your sustainable health and wellness,