Accountability: Back to Basics

The basics of accountability. It sounds like a hot new New York Times bestseller. Accountability is a hot topic; being the CEO of a company whose premise is based around accountability makes it clear how hot of a topic it truly is.

Have you ever read the poem “Invictus” by the Victorian-era English writer William Ernest Henley? If not, you may be familiar with a few lines from it — particularly the last two:

“I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.”

There are multiple ways to interpret this. From those twelve short words, you could infer that Henley inspires the reader to aspire for greatness, despite what life throws in their direction. But let’s look at it from another angle: accountability.

Accountability takes many forms. In our day-to-day lives, we find ourselves accountable to a boss or colleagues and even our family members. But chief among these various permutations is the most fundamental: accountability to yourself. What does this mean? In short, doing what you say you will and following through on it, even when it’s hard.

Accountability isn’t necessarily a skill but rather a characteristic. It’s not necessarily innate; you can develop it within yourself, should you feel inclined. And while nurturing it may prove arduous, this state of discipline is an important stepping stone to more incredible things, transforming you into a better version of yourself.

So, what does this mean in practice? On a basic level, you need to have a level of awareness — not just about your goals, but also about yourself. When trying to reach a long-coveted milestone, you must enumerate each step, poring over it with a magnifying glass to identify each task you must faithfully complete.

Let’s consider a common aspiration: losing weight. If you’re like most people, you look in the mirror and feel a sense of disappointment with the unhealthy habits you’ve developed over the tumultuous lockdown period. Breaking this down further, you end up with four prerequisites:

  • You need to eat better
  • You need to exercise more
  • You need to drink more water
  • You need to sleep more

Even when standing individually, these tasks are intimidating. And this is the point where some people would give up. But not you. You’re accountable.

So, you break it down further.

Step one: nutrition. You figure out your dietary needs and budget, and you work from there, stripping out fast food and artificial junk as you go. While it’s easy to initially swear-off burgers and Diet Coke, if you don’t have anything to replace it with, you inevitably return to your bad habits. So, you rebuild your diet centered around sound nutrition pillars, bringing in lots of vegetables and lean meats. Step one is done.

Step two: exercise. Weight loss is 90 percent nutrition. The remaining 10 percent is exercise. So, you find a gym or an at-home-workout and start a routine. Find the time to break a sweat before the workday begins. You gradually start to build stamina and strength. Over time, you begin to feel a change — not just physically but also mentally.

Step three: water. This one sounds like the most attainable, but it’s also arguably the easiest to neglect. So, you turn it into a habit, keeping a 20oz refillable water bottle by your side and ensuring it’s regularly topped-up. And yes, ensuring you’re within reach of a toilet at all times.

Step four: sleep. This step is the steepest to climb. Most people have terrible sleep hygiene. You can thank the always-on nature of the Internet for that. So, you abstain, removing all electronics from your bedroom. No phone. No TV. Nothing.

You set a hard cut-off point so that you can ease yourself into a state of relaxation. You stop drinking caffeine four hours before you go to bed. You start reading books. And you begin to notice the difference, waking up feeling more refreshed than you ever did. Without a sleep-debt hanging over your neck, you’re more alert. Focused. Ready to take on the day ahead.

After a few months, you’re a person transformed. Leaner. Meaner. Better. But these changes aren’t just skin-deep — the bud of discipline has flowered within you. Disconnecting from your previous unhealthy lifestyle and keeping yourself accountable for creating healthy habits has allowed you to apply those principles to your life. It has empowered you to live the life that you love. As the saying goes, “accountability is the glue that ties commitment to results.”

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