Accountability: #9 of 28 Big Ideas from the World of Coaching


This article is tenth in a multi-part series that adapts and excerpts my entire book, The Coach Within: 28 Big Ideas for Engaging the Power of Your Own Wisdom, Creativity, and Choices* (Everything Goes Media, 2017).

9. Accountability

“It is not only what we do, but also what we do not do,

for which we are accountable.”

— Moliere


“At the end of the day we are accountable to ourselves—

our success is a result of what we do.”

— Catherine Pulsifer


If responsibility (big idea 3) can be construed as the inspiring aspect of “it’s all up to you,” then accountability is its taskmaster twin. It’s understanding that it’s your job and yours alone to get done the things that matter to you; it’s ensuring that your desired tasks, results, changes happen; and it’s answering in the end to yourself.

In terms of the coaching model, you’ve shifted to a new awareness (big idea 7), you’ve admitted the arrival at some new destination (big idea 8), and you’ve selected a “what now” for yourself. Now, as coach and coached, you hold yourself to account for implementing that next thing — and to your specifications.

But accountability applies to all of your goals, expectations of self, and to-do’s, whether or not they are tied to a formal coaching session or a profound aha arrival. And because the disciplinarian accountability is so essential for empowered living, I’m going to go deep into the how-to’s on this one.

How can you keep yourself accountable?


First, set yourself up to succeed.

  • Choose the right goal, next step, and/or “what now?” for you and your situation and the moment.

  • Maintain a growth mindset. Be willing to fail, learn, and try again, focusing on ongoing improvement, strategies, and what will work.

  • Nail down the specifics of what you want to achieve: the who, what, where, when, how. How will you do it? How much? By when? With which steps? How will you know you’ve accomplished the item to which you’re holding yourself accountable?

  • Gauge your commitment to the outcome. Is it high enough to succeed? Feel your commitment level to help seal the deal with yourself.

Then, make it easy for yourself by using tools and reminders.

  • Physical tools and reminders. Use checklists, charts, a journal, notes to self, and your calendar as needed. Put objects in your path that can’t be ignored.

  • Digital tools and reminders. Employ apps, email reminders, text messages, phone pings.

  • Human reminders. Schedule check-ins with accountability partners.

  • Mental reminders. Play back the truths that function on your behalf: I’m in charge here, This is what I have in my life, My choices matter, I will complete this

  • Redundancy! Engage multiple tools to secure better compliance.

  • Drop the idea that achieving success must be hard and dependent on extreme willpower.

Don’t forget to ask for help and surround yourself with support.

  • Ask friends and family to support your efforts in general and more to the point, hold you accountable for what you want to accomplish.

  • Join a support group (either online or in-person, casual or organized)

  • Delegate all or some of your work. Really! You may not have to do it all yourself or even at all. Can you hire someone to do what you want done? Split the effort with your family?

Continue to make the desired results real to yourself (and others).

  • Visualize the outcome and know your reasons for its attainment being meaningful to you. Picture how it fits with your values, plans, personality, and the rest of your life.

  • Announce it, if you dare, to others on social media.

Finally, you have to do it.

  • Just do it.

  • Know your own go-to tricks for getting things done. (For more, you can’t beat David Allen’s classic Getting Things Done* book — but most of his ideas can also be gleaned from his website and e-newsletter.)

  • Breathwork and mindfulness. And when you can’t get it done just now, promise yourself to at least not run away or avoid. Stop and sit in one spot. Breathe deeply. Pay attention to where you’re at and see if you can’t bring yourself around to a place where you can do it or do something. In a few moments or a few minutes, you may just be ready to get started, take a baby step, and — just maybe — complete the job.

Create consequences and contingencies.

  • Rewards. How can you incentivize yourself to follow through? The best rewards reinforce your plans.

  • Punishments. Ouch. Some folks prefer to disincentivize themselves, and perhaps one of the strongest discouragements I’ve heard is committing to sending money to a cause you don’t believe in if you fail to make good on your promise to yourself. Only you know if this is a good route for you.

  • Second and third chances. We all fall and fail sometimes. And sometimes hard and often. Give yourself additional opportunities to make it right.

  • Renegotiating. There are times when we can’t be accountable for something because it turns out to not be the right thing. We miscalculated. We changed our minds. If this is true, and not an avoidance tactic, simply renegotiate with yourself. What would be better? What is the right next thing? How should this be tweaked?

Plan for ongoing accountability success.

  • Keep your task/s, goal/s reasonable and doable.

  • Think in terms of specifics. What will success on this item look like? Details!

  • Make your what now’s, your plans, dreams, and items of accountability a priority. Put them first. You care about those things for good reason.

  • Make your what now’s, your plans, dreams, and items of accountability a priority. Put them first. You care about those things for good reason.

  • Manage your life and your to-do list/s so that they are filled with those things that matter most. Take a hard, critical look at why anything else is there.

  • Track and measure your expected results. Review and adjust accordingly. Keep your behavior in general above board. Ethical. Honest. Legal. Fair. Act from integrity and accountability becomes much easier.

  • Be wary of sabotage from self and others. When you encounter it from others, put a quick end to it. When you find it within, have a coaching session with yourself around that.

Your Coaching To-Do’s

⎕ Review the above list and create an accountability plan for your top goal. Make sure it has a contingency plan. How will you get back on track when you veer off course?

⎕ Take a walk to gain some clarity on where you stand with accountability in general. What are your strengths? Weaknesses? In what kinds of situations do you easily follow through on tasks? When are you likely to fall short?

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