7 Proven Tips to Boost Accountability
We think you’ll agree with us when we say that it’s difficult to find easy life improvement tips and tricks that you can implement and sustain.
Well, it turns out that you can dramatically improve both your life and your career by embracing one simple concept – personal accountability.
Today The Both Now Team will reveal 7 highly actionable tips and techniques that will help you start using personal accountability right away, and better yet, sustain it in your life and your career.
So, let’s get into the good stuff.
- Important Concepts
- Accountability Tip #1: Acknowledge The Voice Inside Your Head
- Accountability Tip #2: Become Willing To Shift Your Mindset
- Accountability Tip #3: Question The "Truth"
- Accountability Tip #4: Let Go Of The Blame Game
- Accountability Tip #5: Shred Your Victim Cards
- Accountability Tip #6: Remove Resentments
- Accountability Tip #7: Find Your Seat Of Power
What is personal accountability?
What comes to mind when you read those words?
Probably something like “responsibility” or “whose fault is it”.
Or, if you come from a corporate environment, you’ve likely heard someone talk about “personal accountability in the workplace”.
Whether you’re already familiar with the concept or not, it usually doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun.
Let’s look at a couple quick definitions and get on the same page.
But if definitions aren’t your thing, skip to the first tip below.
Definition of Accountability
Definition of Personal Accountability
According to Forbes, Personal accountability "is the belief that you are fully responsible for your own actions and consequences. It’s a choice, a mindset and an expression of integrity."
That definition still isn’t tons of fun (and sounds a lot like something you’d hear from your manager), but we're getting a little closer to something that you can put into practical use in your life and your career.
How Does Accountability Impact Your Life?
Now, to get a better idea of how accountability can impact your life, let’s consider one possible origin for the concept of Personal Accountability: William James. And we promise this has nothing to do with lawyers or corporations.
William James was one of the founders of modern psychology and radically changed his life when he decided to take full responsibility for every aspect of every situation he encountered for a year. This choice literally saved his life.
Prior to that he was seriously contemplating suicide.
Yup, you read that right. He was suffering greatly but chose to take responsibility for every aspect of his life.
All of it.
Not just the good stuff.
And when he did, he changed his life so radically that he literally chose life over a premature, self-inflicted death.
William tripped onto an approach to life that we at Both Now know is an absolute gamechanger.
What Personal Accountability Is Not...
Personal Accountability is not about blame, or fault, or shame. It’s not about beating yourself up, or equating workplace productivity to integrity.
when you take full responsibility for every aspect of your life – even the stuff you don’t want to – it puts you in a place of real power.
It puts you in the driver’s seat.
It puts you in a place where you can readily act.
It helps you get unstuck.
It helps you…well…it even helps you ask for help.
It also helps you build confidence, resilience, and a better relationship with “failure”.
When each of us at Both Now first learned about personal accountability, our first thought was “Wow! That’s a really powerful way to look at the world. Why doesn’t everybody do this?!”
We define personal accountability as...
“taking full responsibility for exactly where you’re at in your life and your career. Your actions, your outcomes, and even some stuff that feels like it should be somebody else’s problem.”
How Accountability Works
Let’s quickly go over how personal accountability works. It’s all about your actions and your outcomes.
Without accountability, the relationship between action and outcome looks like this:
As you can see, it only goes one direction.
You do something and you get a result, and that’s it.
Then, often, you’re stuck.
There’s nowhere to go from there. You simply build up a list of actions and outcomes throughout your life.
You don’t learn, you don’t grow, you don’t change.
Of course, this is a very simplified version of what’s actually happening in your life. Most of us have some degree of accountability already. You likely got the basics early in life, like when you learned that if you left your jacket outside in the rain – it got wet.
But true personal accountability, means you need to take responsibility for everything in your life and career – not just the easy and obvious stuff.
Next Level Accountability
When you practice personal accountability, the relationship between your actions and outcomes greatly improves.
This change in mindset supports personal growth, makes it much easier to change, and helps you take informed action.
Your new relationship between actions and outcomes looks something like this:
Personal accountability encourages you to own all your outcomes.
And when you take ownership of your outcomes, you can reframe them and turn them into further positive action.
So, how do you do this?
Well, the concept is pretty straight forward.
You take full responsibility for everything in your life and career.
Of course, doing this day-in and day-out takes real practice.
And that’s why we’ve got some great tips coming your way.
Practicing personal accountability is a journey of growth. You’re never going to be perfect at it, so you might as well cut yourself some slack right off the bat.
Practice it to the best of your ability each day and you will be astounded by the results.
Okay. Let’s tear into Tip #1!
Accountability Tip #1
Acknowledge The Voice Inside Your Head
so our definition of personal accountability is...
taking full responsibility for exactly where you’re at in your life and your career.
and even some stuff that feels like it should be somebody else’s problem.
A quick note from Paula...
This is worth doing, not because we want you to be a control freak or because we want you to beat yourself up – those are two forms of self sabotage that we do not encourage (though we can certainly relate some days 😉).
This is about getting unstuck.
This is about having more happiness.
You do this – take full responsibility – because it helps you let go of things that are no longer serving you and it puts you in a place of power where you can take action!
You have infinitely more options if you live your life knowing that there’s no problem too great to be solved, and if you choose to face your issues from a place of accountability instead of apathy or victimhood.
What Voice Are You Talking About?!
Here’s a very simple example (we’ll touch on it a number of times in the tips that follow):
Remember the last time you got cut off in traffic? Or someone ran a yellow light and stopped you from making a left-hand turn?
And you lost your “perfect composure”? 😇
And maaaaaybe then you went on to simmer? Seethe? Be cranky about it for quite some time, tell your friends about it, and justify your bad mood by listening to that little voice in your head repeatedly tell yourself something like, “Well, I wouldn’t be in a bad mood if that jerk hadn’t cut me off in traffic!”
Right now...if you’re thinking: “What little voice in my head?” or “That’s ridiculous, I don’t have a voice in my head,” then welcome to the little voice in your head. It’s the one that just called this concept “ridiculous”.
We all have a voice in our head. It’s the steady stream of thoughts that flow through our brain most of the day.
Acknowledging the simple fact that thoughts flow through your mind all day long is the first step in taking personal accountability.
Because very often those same thoughts dictate your actions and your mood.
A quick note from Hailey...
Your thoughts, actions, and mood are intimately linked. Any of the three can influence the others. Being aware of your thoughts is a powerful tool for changing your behaviours and emotions. Because guess what – even if you’re personally unaware of your thoughts, they still impact your emotions and your actions.
Just Know That It's The Human Condition
Wait, really? Ya. Really. Welcome to the human condition.
But here’s the thing – you can actually train those thoughts to work for you instead of against you.
Okay. That’s it for this tip. Just acknowledge that you have a stream of thoughts flowing through your head pretty much all day long and that you often act on those thoughts and let them affect your behaviours and your mood.
We don’t need to make this any bigger than it is. For now, knowing this is enough. We’ll get into what to do about it in the following tips.
If by chance your little voice is now running wild and filling your head with all kinds of reasons why this is stupid – that’s excellent. Be content for now that you’ve taken a big step toward personal accountability.
You’ve just met that little voice in your head!
Want the free workbook that goes with this post?
A blog post is great and all, but wouldn’t it be nice to have a guide as you put this stuff into action?
We’ve got you covered with The Accountability Workbook. It’s filled with tips, tricks, and resources to help you start applying personal accountability right away!
Accountability Tip #2
Become Willing to Shift Your Mindset
Now that you’ve acknowledged that there’s a constant flow of thoughts through your mind
AND that these thoughts often affect you...
you need to be willing to change the things you are telling yourself.
You need to be willing to shift your mindset.
You Do Have a Choice...
As you work through these tips towards personal accountability, you may experience some internal resistance to these new ideas. That’s okay, but at some point, you’re going to have to make a choice.
Your choice looks like this:
- Stay stuck, OR
- Become willing to look at things from a new perspective
Like we said, our definition of personal accountability is all about taking full responsibility for your life and your career. Taking full responsibility puts you in a place of power that makes it easier for you to act.
Remember. This is about getting unstuck.
Our Accountability Example Continued...
Alright, let’s get back to that example from earlier.
Remember that person who cut you off in traffic?
What would happen if – instead of letting your thoughts move immediately to blame, and frustration, and anger at this other crappy driver – you instead simply acknowledged how you came to be in this situation.
You might say one or more of these things to yourself:
“Dealing with other drivers is part of driving.”
“I’d never be cut off in traffic if I didn’t have a car.”
“That was a close one. I’ll need to stay focused while driving today, looks like there are some people out here in a real hurry and I don’t want them anywhere near my car.”
“Sometimes, actually more often than I like to admit, I make mistakes driving too.”
Sound ridiculous? Too simple? Too naive?
A quick note from Brad...
I say these types of things to myself all the time while I’m driving and when I do, I remain extremely calm regardless of what anyone else is doing on the road.
But this wasn’t always the case. Before I committed to using this technique, my anger would sometimes get the best of me.
Not to be too dramatic, but this meant that I was putting myself and others at risk, because I wasn’t 100% focused on the task at hand.
Now I use similar techniques in many other areas of my life.
Here’s the thing, though.
It took a shift in mindset.
At times, the actions of others may not be 100% “right” but simmering about it won’t change that.
But I’d actually rather be happy than right.
That’s an interesting point, hey?
Insisting on being right often keeps us stuck.
Wanting to be Right Can Keep You Stuck?
That’s certainly what we at Both Now believe, and it happens to be what the next tip is all about.
Okay, quick recap...
- You have a voice in our head, and
- If you want to get unstuck and start seeing different outcomes, you have to be willing to change the narrative in your head
If you want to keep on staying stuck then please, stop reading right now!
But who wants that? Not us!
Okay. Let’s keep going.
Onto Tip #3, where we’ll look at how insisting on being right might be affecting your mood and outcomes!
Accountability Tip #3
Question The "Truth"
Do you believe that there is only one truth?
Do you believe that there is one right answer to each question?
If you are firm in your beliefs
- that there is one ultimate, objective truth,
- that this truth must be found at all costs,
- and if people can’t see the objective truth, they’re just idiots
…then you are likely going to struggle with personal accountability.
There Isn't Just One Truth?
Personal accountability is far easier to put into practice if you are a bit more flexible with your definition of “The Truth”.
If you believe that everyone sees the world a bit differently based on their experiences, their culture, their personality, their social standing and many, many other factors, then you will find personal accountability much easier to use consistently.
Personal accountability is about helping you move. Helping you get unstuck. Helping you live and operate from a place of personal power.
The easiest way to do that is to take responsibility for absolutely EVERYTHING in your life and career.
That may sound like a lot.
That may sound like too much.
That might even sound absurd, or impossible.
Change What You Believe About Truth
And, now your internal resistance might be throwing up thoughts, like:
“You have no idea how horrible my childhood was.”
“It’s impossible to take responsibility for everything.”
“I don’t control the world. Are you out to lunch?!”
Okay. Here’s a radical thought.
You can change your beliefs. Regardless of what you “know” to be absolutely “true” – you can change your mind and your beliefs and you do it all the time. We all do.
You can even change what you believe about truth itself!
Like we said…radical.
The Truth Challenge
We invite you to challenge your beliefs about truth.
Give this a try...
What would happen if, for a few weeks, you went about your daily business:
- leaving a bit of room in your mind for other people’s perspectives,
- considering the possibility that there are many, many ways to solve most problems,
- and remembering that every person sees the world a bit differently
Why are we asking you to do this?
Because, if you can be a bit more flexible in your definition of THE TRUTH then you can more readily accept full responsibility for everything in your life.
A Couple Examples
“I don’t control the world” might become “I control my reactions to the world, so I can accept the crappy things that happen to me and act anyway.”
“You have no idea how horrible my childhood was” might become “Parts of my childhood were horrific, but I like many, many things about who I am today…so I am willing to ask for help, and act.”
So, if you want to be right please continue to repeat in your head “It’s impossible to take responsibility for everything. It’s impossible to take responsibility for everything. It’s impossible to take responsibility for everything!!!”
If you want to act from a place of power, then try a bit of flexibility and start telling yourself “When I take responsibility for what’s happening around me and my reactions to it, I am much more able to see solutions and ask for help so I can continue to improve my life and my career!”
And that new perspective is very much related to the next tip – letting go of the blame game.
Remember to get your free workbook!
Don't forget to grab your free Accountability Workbook that goes with this post...
We’ve packed it with exercises that will help you start practicing personal accountability right away!
Accountability Tip #4
Let Go of The Blame Game
It is so much easier to blame others!
But when you decide it’s somebody else’s fault this gives you an easy out. It allows you to sidestep your own responsibility, and it makes it even harder to act.
“I can’t believe how rude that person was in the grocery line-up, they ruined my entire day!”
Statements like this keep you stuck.
Because they absolve you of responsibility.
If you want to be in a position to take action, it’s time to learn how to stop playing the blame game.
A quick note from Paula...
When you stop blaming others for where you are in your life and your career, it does not mean that you should start blaming yourself.
This isn’t about who’s at fault, it’s about operating from the place of your best self as often as you can. There’s a big difference between taking on personal accountability and taking all the blame for other people’s bad acting.
We want you to practice accountability, but we certainly don’t want you to become a human doormat in the process.
So how do you let go of blaming others?
Well, you become a Personal Detective.
Your Own Personal Detective!
Instead of blaming those around you, start having better conversations with yourself. You will be amazed at how awesome life can be when you look at yourself first.
Let’s put your Personal Detective to work on the same statement of blame above and see where it leads.
A very useful conversation to have with...yourself
You: “I can’t believe how rude that person was in the grocery line-up, they ruined my entire day!”
Your Personal Detective: “Did you just say that that ruined your entire day?”
Your Personal Detective: “A person you’d never met before that you interacted with for 30 seconds at the grocery store at 10am this morning ruined your entire day?”
You: “Ya. They were a real jerk!”
Your Personal Detective: “That was 7 hours ago…”
You: “Ya. So?”
Your Personal Detective: “You don’t see anything strange about the fact that a complete stranger you interacted with for 30 seconds, 7 hours ago, ruining your entire day?!”
Your Personal Detective: “Is there any chance there’s something else going on? Is there any chance you’re projecting anything else on this stranger that has nothing to do with them?”
You: “I’m fine. I mean, I got in a huge argument with my boss yesterday. He’s such an idiot. But otherwise I’m fine.”
Might sound a bit cheesy, but this actually works. For real!
A quick note from Hailey...
It’s worth noting that though this sometimes works instantly, it can also take a lot of patience. I still catch myself (sometimes days later 😬) and need to take the time to reframe and reset.
So, cut yourself some slack if it doesn’t instantly start to feel natural. Guiding yourself out of this cycle might feel silly or clunky for a long time. Depending on your experiences, including how you were raised, these patterns can be deeply ingrained.
A Powerful Pattern Interrupter...
It’s all about interrupting the patterns and behaviours that are keeping you stuck.
Practice this for a while and eventually you’ll bypass your Personal Detective altogether on many things and the scenario above can become as simple as saying one sentence to yourself:
“Wow, that person in the grocery line-up was in a terrible mood. They must have been having a really bad day. I feel for them. I’ve had the odd bad day myself.”
15 seconds for a new perspective, or hours of misery. We’re absolutely fans of option one!
Accountability Tip #5
Shred Your Victim Cards
According to Psychology Today,
“Everyone gets attacked, injured, cheated, fooled, and harmed during their life… We’re all victims, in moments, to life’s challenges and difficulties…”
But if you’re convinced that you’re a victim, you are going to struggle to take action and change your outcomes.
We get it. We really do. Allowing yourself to stay stuck being the victim of a tough childhood, school yard bullying years ago, losing a loved one, an injury from a car accident that wasn’t your fault, etc., etc., etc. can be hard to give up.
Personal Accountability vs. Victimhood
It’s worth remembering that all suffering is relative. We each have our own unique version of suffering, and each of our experiences are true and valid. It’s how you choose to react to that suffering that really matters.
These “victim” statements can be used as a trump card anytime you don’t want to be personally accountable.
Because these “victim cards” can allow you to:
- stay “right”
- take the easier road and not push yourself
- carry on without taking responsibility
But, here’s the thing.
Personal accountability is all about taking responsibility so you can move forward – so you can act.
If you’re serious about getting all the benefits that come from being accountable, then you’ve got to shred your victim cards.
Your Emotions are Valid
That doesn’t mean you squash your emotions. It doesn’t mean that you don’t feel anger, grief, or sadness. It doesn’t mean that you tough it out at all costs and all alone.
You need to feel your feelings – they give your Personal Detective important information.
And let’s be clear: there is no shame in seeking professional help. Please, don’t try to do life all alone because you want to be tough – ask a trusted friend or advisor for support.
But, here’s the thing – if you want to be an accountability pro, you’ve got to give up your deck of victim cards.
Regardless of your lot in life, your parents, your partner, your job, your <fill in the blank with your own personal example>…
…walk your deck of victim cards to the shredder right now and let them rip.
If the thought of shredding your victim cards brings up some fears, anger, or resentments that you’re just not ready to let go of…then you’re right on cue for the next tip.
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Accountability Tip #6
Similar and often related to playing the victim card, holding resentments keeps you good and stuck!
like the famous quote says, “Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”
And that’s a big BUT!
You spend hours, and days, and months reliving the horrible thing that someone else has done to you, telling everyone who will listen, plotting your revenge, and saying your curses, over, and over, and over…
…WHILE THE OTHER PERSON READS BOOKS, PLAYS MUSIC, SLEEPS SOUNDLY EVERY SINGLE NIGHT, AND LIVES. THEIR. LIFE.
The Toxicity of Resentments
If that ain’t toxic behavior, we’re not sure what is.
Resentments are not easy to get rid of, but when you’re able to remove them, you’ll free up countless wasted hours.
You’ll be in a far better place to take personal accountability and act.
That is, after all, what this entire post is about – taking responsibility so that you can act.
Let's say we’ve convinced you that resentments are a waste of your time, energy, and sometimes even your money. How do you go about getting rid of them?!
The formula is quite simple.
What you will probably find harder is actually using it. This is tough stuff.
We have no idea why the human condition is so often wired for resistance and revenge, but for those brave souls that want to free themselves of the horrible burden of resentment, here’s the tested process to do it.
Note: you should write on paper as you work through the steps below – at least until you get very good at this process. Seriously. Get out that pen and paper. If you’re committed to doing the work and you want this to sink in, do it in your own handwriting.
How to Eliminate a Resentment
Watch yourself closely here – many of us skip the real work when we think we have “the answer”, but more often than not, that’s your intellect jumping in to help you stay stuck! i.e. your mind “thinks up” a quick, lousy answer to save you from doing the real work. But in this case, work = freedom…
1. Recall the person’s name
(or group of people, e.g. “figures of authority”)
2. Recall a very short version of your resentment
(e.g. “stole my promotion”, “always cancels plans”, “cheated on me”, etc.). Make this short! The longer you make this the more you’ll stay stuck in the resentment. Remember, ruminating on the resentment is what you used to do. This process is about getting rid of the resentment, not swimming in it.
3. Recall a very short version of your part in the resentment.
You’re going to have to do some work here, but you will have some part in this – except in very extreme circumstances, of course. (e.g. “stole my promotion” might be “I didn’t prepare well for the job interview”. “Always cancels plans” might be “I sometimes cancel on them too; or, I keep making plans with them and allowing myself to be treated this way”. “Cheated on me” is a tricky one but might be worth examining; it might be “I knew this was happening and was too afraid of conflict to talk about it” or “there was something missing in the relationship”). This step is not about taking the blame away from the other party, it is simply about examining your role in the situation. If you can’t think of any part that’s yours, consider recognizing that your part is that you continue to let this resentment keep you stuck.
4. Wish the “offending party” well.
This will be hard if the resentment is deep-seated, but if you have done a good job determining your part in the resentment as well and you truly want to be rid of this thing that’s wasting oodles of your time then you have to do this step. You might try repeating something like the following until you actually mean it, “I see now that Sam wasn’t intentionally trying to hurt me, Sam was struggling himself when he did those things to me. I wish Sam all the best in the future.”
5. Repeat, repeat, repeat, and repeat #4 until the resentment is gone.
Say it out loud or in your head over and over again if you need to. Say it in the shower. Say it on your daily commute. This can take a lot of repetition, but it is definitely worth the work!
A quick note from Brad...
Sometimes resentments will crop back up over time. This doesn’t mean you failed. This means you’re human 😊. Simply repeat this exercise as necessary.
When a resentment does come back, you might identify a different role you had in the exchange, or maybe you’ve had some more time to heal and forgive, or maybe you’ll find that it’s worth seeking out professional help or a trusted advisor to help you identify the root of this resentment.
Enough about resentments.
On to the final accountability tip...
Finding your personal power!
Accountability Tip #7
Finding Your Seat Of Power
Once you’re aware that personal accountability puts you in a place where you can take action, you’ll never be able to ignore this fact again – at least not for long.
So, finding your seat of power is all about practice, practice, practice.
Practice being aware of where you are currently shirking responsibility, practice breaking old patterns of blaming and playing the victim, practice all the tips in this guide.
As you do, you’ll see that there is a compounding effect to personal accountability.
The Compounding Power of Practicing Accountability
With practice, it will become easier and easier to apply accountability in all areas of your life and career.
You will notice negative patterns in one area of your life and be able to immediately break them in others.
The amount of efficiency, effectiveness, and peace of mind you gain from continually applying accountability in your life and career is just about boundless.
Suddenly, you’ll notice you’ve been sitting on a work project longer than you should because it would go a lot faster if you called that person in marketing you don’t care for much.
You work through your resentment of the person in marketing using the method in this guide, take responsibility for your part of the relationship that went sour, make the call, reconcile, and get a great project result that your boss loves.
You realize from solving the problem at work that you often have trouble asking for help.
It turns out you don’t like admitting to others that you don’t know everything.
This allows you to see that you often won’t ask for help from your significant other when you’re working on projects around the house because, again, you don’t like it when you look like you don’t know what you’re doing.
You open up to your spouse, projects around the house becomes a team effort and go much smoother, and you become closer as a couple.
And on, and on, and on, and on!
Want help applying accountability in your life and career?
Click the button below to get immediate free access to The Accountability Workbook that goes with this post.
We've included the exercises you need so you can start practicing personal accountability right away!
There is no end to what you can accomplish in your life and career by regularly applying personal accountability to everything you do.
Yes, it takes awareness, willingness, and work, but we know from decades of personal use that the payback from this one principle is 10-fold the effort you put in.
Now we’d like to hear from you:
What is your number one takeaway from this list of tips?
Let us know by leaving a comment below right now.