Human: noun = thing, object. Being: verb = doing something.
We’re three weeks into the “new year”. The gyms are crowded, as are the many health food stores, the outer aisles at the grocery stores, and the “healthier” fast food places or restaurants. I imagine prescriptions for Chantix and it’s cousins are up, as are sales for fitness related gear and gadgets. Home improvement stores are doing brisk business on storage containers, shelving units…in general, the economy built around improvement and change are experiencing a tidal wave of business which I imagine will slow way down in a week’s time, only to pick back up in the Spring, to then die down again until closer to the holidays.
I write that to point out a concept that’s taken root in my mind as I look at my life in relation to what’s showing up in my world these days. I touched on it briefly in a post just a few days ago, the idea that motivation / inspiration are like fireworks. There’s this big pretty flash of sound and color but then both the sound and color fade – wink out of existence leaving us in limbo waiting for the next burst. How do we fill the limbo? The months of February, March, June, July, and September?
Like a billion other people I have a long list of things I want to accomplish or get in my life. I know what it takes to get them and at certain milestones – a new year, an approaching birthday, the solstice…whatever, I find myself motivated to set the goal to finally get the thing. Deadlines have come and gone, yet many of the things, oh who am I kidding? Most of the things remain unclaimed. Why is that? I have a bad habit of getting mired in the “why” of things, bear with me.
I have come to believe, in my life anyway and perhaps this is the case with others as well, when it comes to reaching goals, I must have someone to whom I am accountable. If I knew I didn’t have to show any “proof” that I’d done the deed, then I would find all kinds of other things to do. Does this mean I was waiting around for validation? With certain things, that was the case. I did a lot in the name of gaining validation, allowing someone else to determine whether or not I was “worthy”. Needless to say, that’s a sure-fire way to end up doing things you didn’t really want to do. Having my self-worth tied to other people’s reaction to me proved to be a most harmful way to live. I’ve digressed.
Accountability in my world is not the same as validation. I want to do certain things to bring myself to joy. Whether anyone else thinks they’re worthwhile pursuits doesn’t register (any more – long road of emotional healing to get to this point, let me tell you). But, I still need to be accountable to someone outside myself. Does this mean I’m lacking self-discipline? Could be. But guess what, I’m no longer going to beat myself up about that. It is what it is. Am I going to let that stop me from getting what I want or am I going to find a way to work around it? I’m choosing to find the work-around these days.
This is how this works.
Instead of setting the goal to follow this or that exercise regimen for 90 days, I took a REAL look at how I operate and decided that just getting to the gym was goal enough. Once there, I’d do whatever it was I felt like doing for however long I felt like doing it. I wouldn’t lock myself into how many times a week, how much weight I’d lift, or anything else. Yes, I know, goals are “supposed” to be SMART, but my reality is that I’ve never done anything the way I was supposed to do it. The first steps in my little rolly, walker thing? I went backwards. For months!! Even manged to get out of my house and into the neighbor’s, all going backwards. Around the age of five, I started taking short cuts. Short-cuts? Took me two hours to go up the block. Why? Because I took a short cut that lead me all through the neighborhood. I never got lost, I always found my way (and still do to this day), but if I said I was taking a short cut that definitely didn’t mean a quicker way to get from point A to point B – damn sure didn’t mean a straight line either. It’s when I try to do things the way I’m “supposed” to that I get into trouble. Why should this be any different? Que the motivation – my weight at my last physical and the potential for developing a host of preventable diseases that could shorten my life span. Granted, there are no guarantees I’ll live to the age I want (100+) but I’ll be damned if I knowingly knock off any potential years just because after a couple of weeks I wasn’t still “motivated” to get off the damn couch.
Asking for Accountability
South Park lambasted the idea of having an “accountability buddy” (Cartman Sucks, Season 11, episode 2) to the point where I struggled mightily to use the phrase anywhere in my life. I’m not going to start now, lol. Instead, I like to think of what I’m talking about as someone who I have to answer to when it comes to DOING the things it takes to reach my goal. Using the aforementioned gym attendance goal – I picked a friend who is already a dedicated gym goer. I didn’t want to impose on their life, or make my going to the gym something they were responsible for. I know from experience that no one can “make” you do anything. What I needed was someone who would drop me a note triggered by their own work out schedule that said something along the lines of, “you said you wanted to go to the gym, have you gone yet?” That’s it. They are not invested in my actions or my results. Once they send the note, it’s up to me to do the action. And for me, giving an excuse to someone else is far more difficult than giving them to myself. What’s happened so far is that I’ve chosen to go to the gym over sitting on my couch five times so far in the two weeks since I made the deal with my friend. It felt good to be able to say, “yes, I went” Or, “no, but since you mentioned it, I’m going now.” I did a u-turn that day actually five minutes from getting home to head back to where I’d come from so I could turn that “no” into a “yes”. I’m not doing it for my friend, I’m doing it because I made the promise to myself and having my friend remind of that promise, keeps me accountable. We have no set agreement of when or how often they’ll send the note. What we do have is a friendship in which I trusted that they’d do it for however long it worked for them. In the meantime, I find my willingness to go without prompting, growing a bit. I like being the first to send a note such as, “just finished my leg workout.” Whether I get an acknowledgement back or not isn’t a factor. I just feel good knowing I did something I said I was going to do – having someone to tell is the little burst of motivation I need to keep doing it.
What goals, situations do you have that are similar to this? Do you think you’d be more inclined to DO if you had to show someone your work? We’re taught / conditioned to accept that working hard for someone else / in order to receive a paycheck is what we’re “supposed” to do – we develop routines that take us out of our natural rhythms in order to earn that check (make the CEOs, company owners and investors millions in profits). Yet when it comes to doing for ourselves, we falter. There are plenty of exceptions – all fast rising entrepreneurs come to mind. But for every Steve Jobs, there are thousands whose business fall flat and even more so who have a wonderful idea (looking in the mirror at this point) but are so tied to their “steady paycheck” that they don’t even try to get the business off the ground. Does that sound familiar? So, here’s the challenge – what’s one thing you could do today, as soon as you finish reading this, that would move you toward accomplishing a goal? I dare you to do it and post about it – show pictures of you actually DOING the thing. Go on – I triple dog dare you. Oh yeah, I went there.
Now of course, I do not expect you to end up with an injury of any kind. But I do anticipate you ended up with a small smile, a sense of “hey, I did it”, and quite possibly the lingering desire to perhaps, take another small step toward that goal.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” – Lao Tzu
True. But what no one talks about is how by step numbers twenty or so, you might not be as enthused about continuing on to the next billion or so it’s going to take to make it that thousand miles. What do you do then, eh? 🙂 Well, in my case, you get some one to remind you why you wanted to take this stupid hike in the first place…(that motivation thing again. Sure, I’m all hyped to take the first step, but what’s going to push me to take the second? That’s right…being accountable to someone).
“When eating an elephant take one bite at a time.” – Creighton Abrams
Excuse me, but do you know how BIG an elephant really is? This isn’t Man V. Food, so it’s not about ratings or a paycheck. I gotta have some really good reason for my trying to eat this 4-ton beastie to begin with. And short of preventing starvation, I don’t think I want to eat an elephant at all. (illustrating how it makes sense to choose goals you actually want to achieve in the first place – makes it easier then for the need to be accountable to stick.)
Finally, the end of this post (almost 1750 words later)
Can you tell I’m a might passionate about all this? LOL. Anyway, here’s where you get the bottom line – I’m done with the self-help jargon. No radical “paradigm shifts” here. No “life coach” tendencies as I think the world has more than enough qualified / certified coaches to go around. Nope – what I am establishing is the action behind my tag line. And it goes a little something like this:
Hello. My name is Dana Ellington and I’m in the human construction business. I build people up so they may achieve their goals. I do this through the stories I tell (my self-published work – buy my books please), my independent publishing business (find out more here), my writer’s coaching services (see them at the same place you can buy my books), my day job, and coming soon, my human construction company (spring 2015).
Now I’m off to find the next accountability bu…I mean, another friend who will hold me accountable for the business goals. *ahem* (damn you South Park, lol)