It’s Not About Accountability: The Real Reason You Aren’t Taking Action

By: Cortney Morris
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How many things are you telling yourself you “should” be doing? Things that you know, if accomplished, would bring you closer to your goals. These are the type of habits that you know will create change but for some reason, you are not doing them. Things like eating healthier, exercising, saving money, getting more sleep, etc…

Have you ever found yourself stuck in wondering why you haven’t made the change even though you know it would make a difference? Consider there is a bigger issue at play that, when solved, will allow you to completely change the trajectory of your life and/or business. 

The biggest myth in change management is thinking your inaction is about accountability. This is something I hear over and over again in a variety of ways. People say to me, “I just need someone to hold me accountable” or “I know if I brought someone on, I would start getting into the office earlier and be lead generating daily.”

I’ve fallen into this trap myself; I have hired a trainer thinking that my trainer is going to solve all my problems. This worked great for the first couple of months. I was keeping a food journal, exercising, and I was getting results. Over time though, the food journaling stopped. My trainer kept asking me about it, but it didn’t make a difference. I bet that you’ve had a similar experience. A time where you had accountability and it worked for a period of time . . .  until it didn’t.

Your lack of action on the things you “should” be doing has almost nothing to do with accountability.

Think about it. What are you currently doing that is difficult and inconvenient that no one has to remind you to do? I have a few of these things. I work out 3-4 times a week, I meal prep weekly, I start work every morning at 7 am., and I pick my son up from daycare every day by 4:45 pm. I make sure all the dishes are clean and put away before bed each night. No one ever has to remind me to do those things, and I don’t have to set reminders for myself to do them. I’m sure you have several things you do as well.

What’s the difference between the tough things we do and the things we don’t? We can say it’s about accountability, time, or energy, but is it really? There are plenty of tasks you don’t have the time or energy for, yet you still make it happen. Time, energy, and accountability are reasons or symptoms of a much bigger issue. You can handle the symptoms or attack the issue at its core. At YPP, we address issues at the root, creating long-lasting change.

When it comes to the things you “should” be doing, the root of the issue is Identity. Your Identity is how you see yourself in relationship to your goal and to the things you believe you should be doing. As you consider this, first look at those difficult, inconvenient things you do daily. How do they relate to how you see yourself?

I see myself as the type of woman who can run around with her family, eats healthy, and works hard for her family, her company, and her clients. I am not currently working to build that identity, it is how I see myself at this moment. The habits I outlined are in alignment with my vision. There are a hundred ways to get up the mountain. Those habits are how I see myself getting up mine. 

You will always act in alignment with how you see yourself. How do your habits align with your identity?

The things that you “should” be doing but aren’t, are not currently in alignment with how you see yourself. For example, I think I should be writing daily. Why? I know that if I excelled at writing, it would help me grow personally and professionally. The challenge is that I don’t fully see myself as a writer. I dabble, but if asked to describe myself I’m not sure it would crack my top 15 descriptors. If I was writing every day, I’m certain it would be one of the first words I use.  Your identity and the actions you take go hand-in-hand. One reinforces the other. When looking to make a long-lasting change, you have to consider both the action and how you see yourself in relationship to it.

Accountability can temporarily help you build new habits. However, if the way you see yourself never changes, those habits will be short-lived. I never kept up a food journal because I didn’t see myself as someone who kept one. I didn’t believe I needed to do it to be healthy and, as such, the accountability only went so far. You can have a great accountability partner, the best plan, and yet at some point, it falls apart. Consider it’s not falling apart because it is a bad plan, it is falling apart because your identity is not aligned.

How do you create your identity?

Think about how you have created who you are thus far. The first seeds of your identity were planted by what others said to you about who you are. Your family, friends, and teachers told you what to pay attention to and then, without even thinking, you found that evidence. To create a new way of seeing yourself, consider using those same tools. Decide on how you want to see yourself, look for the evidence, and reinforce your new identity until it becomes second nature. 

Focus on these four building blocks to create lasting change:

Create Clarity

What is your goal? What are the actions you will take to achieve that goal? Get away from what you should do and decide on what you will do. Use that information to create your identity. James Clear has a great exercise to help you get the ball rolling. He says that to create an identity statement, complete the sentence, “I’m the type of person who…” Fill in the blank with your decided actions. Complete it in the present tense. For example, “I am the type of person who writes every day.” Keep your identity statement front and center. Read it daily.

Gain Leverage

Many times we fail to create long-term change because we are okay with where we currently are. We say we want to change, but honestly, we don’t want to go through the pain of making the change. To get over this hurdle, you need leverage. Leverage helps you push through the difficulty of making the change. If you aren’t so sick and tired of where you are that you will do anything to get out of it, answer the following questions:

  • If everything continues exactly the way it’s been going for the next 6 months, where will I be?
  • What will never happen if I don’t make this change?
  • Is that okay with me?

Build Confidence

Doubt and a lack of confidence hold too many people back. I see people paralyzed because they doubt that they will be able to be successful. When they don’t get instant results, they back off from doing it. Now that you know what you want and why you want it, build your confidence.  Confidence comes from time and experience. No one starts out with confidence. The more experiences of success we have, the more confident we become. Don’t start by eating the whole elephant, take it one bite at a time. What will be your first bite? Identify it, achieve it, then slow down and celebrate before taking the next step (or bite). Every small win you have will help build your confidence.

Enlist Help

Who is your tribe? Who are the people who only want to see you succeed? Share your goals with them. Have you ever noticed how much you hate letting someone down? To use that to your advantage, share your goal and the identity you are building with someone close to you. Ask them for support as you make these changes. Come up with your own agreements about how they can support you and talk with you about it. Research shows you will increase your probability of completing a goal by 95% if you hold an accountability appointment with someone. Every time you complete that goal and talk with someone about it, you are building more evidence to support your new identity.

Follow these four steps and you will find your new identity is being strengthened. Over time you won’t have a second thought about the habits you are working so hard to build right now.  You have likely done this many times in your life already. As a teenager, I was a slacker. I hated doing homework, studying, and going the extra mile. I did just enough to get by. This fact surprises most people I meet, especially since I am known as the opposite in my professional life. Somewhere in college, the switch flipped for me. It didn’t happen by accident. I had a horrible first semester my freshman year. “Just enough” wasn’t good enough in college. I had to learn how to learn, something I did not need to do in high school. I started going to office hours, reading the textbook, highlighting, taking notes. I put in hours everywhere. That evidence mounted. Before I knew it, I saw myself as someone who is hard working. A love of learning is part of who I am, but it wasn’t always how I saw myself. I built that identity, one habit at a time, and you can build this one too.

Start small, identify the first step. Notice your accomplishments and share them. Before you know it, you will have become the person you envision now. The funny thing is how quickly you will forget this moment you’re currently in where it all seems so improbable.

If you want to engage in a conversation on how to do this for yourself, reach out to us here. We have made it our business to help people identify and live out their inspired life.  Every year we host an event, Align & Thrive, that is committed to helping people align with their best life.  This is a member-only program.  Occasionally, we extend invitations to like-minded people.  If you have an interest, request an invite.

Cortney Morris
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