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Accountability: Not as scary as it sounds?

June 27, 2012

The long path uphill ends in light.

Accountability. Something about this word rings big and scary. It’s slung around in politics as a threat of not being re-elected, of being censured for a misdeed or failure. To “hold someone accountable” often connotes a punishment for a wrong action, or a punishment for not doing something you’re supposed to.

But we’re accountable to and responsible to a lot of people: our selves, our parents and family, our partner (if we’re in a relationship), our boss, coworkers, clients or customers, roommates, friends, pets. That’s a lot of responsibility! It can feel overwhelming to think about all at once.

It’s nice to feel needed or cared about, though, to have someone to be accountable to. Instead of being scared by it, I’ve been trying to think of accountability as a positive check/balance. What it comes down to in some cases, especially with one’s self, is, “Hey, have you done that thing you said you wanted to do yet?” or “Have you done that thing you need to do yet?” For me, holding myself accountable, or, as frustrated as I can get when they do, having a parent, roommate, or friend hold me accountable, serves as a gentle reminder not to procrastinate. (Or not to procrastinate any/much longer, at least.)

My frustration at being reminded or held accountable to do something stems from, obviously, not having done it yet and knowing I need to or want to. Gentle reminders can serve as the kick in the pants to move forward, to move things from the “to-do” list to the “done!” list, which is always rewarding and energizing.

So why do we procrastinate and dislike the idea of too much “accountability?” It’s so much easier to keep browsing Twitter, Facebook, reading that article or book, doing that recreational activity, and not doing the thing we know we need to do. Making ourselves do something requires dipping into our reserves of willpower and self-discipline, even for something we want to do. It’s not as immediate a reward as clicking a link or clinking a drink.

But the satisfaction of, “Look, I did it, Mommy!” doesn’t go away, even for adults, even if you’re not telling Mom everything you’re accomplishing. So remember the reward, the satisfaction, the joy you get from getting something done, from meeting or exceeding someone else’s expectations of you – or your own expectations. Hold yourself accountable to being the best version of your self that you can be, to doing the important things, to seeking a richer reward than temporary distraction. And after you get something done and meet those responsibilities and expectations, reward yourself with a little fun! (Or as Mom always said, “First you work and then you play!“)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 29, 2012 9:43 am

    I like this part especially: “Making ourselves do something requires dipping into our reserves of willpower and self-discipline…”

    Great topic and reminder!

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