The Obstacle Meter – 30: Accountability

30: Accountability

I could really use someone to hold me accountable to my diet.

Take a second to think about the things that are important to you in your life.  Who or what comes to mind?  Your partner, your parents, your kids?  A close personal friend?  What do all of these people have in common?  They have a close personal relationship with you.  And with any close personal relationship you do not want to let them down nor do you want to disappoint them.  You are intensely loyal to them; you would do anything for them, and they reciprocate those feelings to you.

Many people want to be held accountable by a trainer, nutritionist or therapist.  These same people may have the attitude of –just tell me what to do– or –whip me into shape–.  But I think this is the wrong way to go about accountability.  Unless you have or are planning to develop a close personal relationship with this trainer or nutritionist you are not going to give a shit what they think of you two years from now.  People come into and out of your life all the time and without that close personal relationship they are not going to be able to hold you truly accountable.

If you really want/feel the need to be held accountable to someone I would suggest you chose yourself to be held accountable to.  Have you all heard of extrinsic vs. intrinsic motivation?  Extrinsic motivation comes from outside of you (i.e., a trainer or nutritionist) whereas intrinsic motivation comes from within yourself.  If you are extrinsically motivated to do something you are doing that something for someone else and your behavior change is never going to work long term.  Your desire to change has to come from within.  If you are currently extrinsically motivated, you may not be ready to change and you sure as hell have not boughten into the change.  This does not mean that you cannot start off by being extrinsically motivated and transition into intrinsic motivation, but I just do not see this as being a likely scenario.

In my opinion, the only way that extrinsic motivation can work is if the person you are accountable to has a close personal relationship with you and is deeply embedded in your life.  Despite all of our technology and on demand communication your trainer or nutritionist simply is not going to be able to spend enough time with you to keep the extrinsically motivated fire burning deep inside you.  If a partner, parent, son or daughter can serve this role, you have a much better chance of success than working with someone you do not know and do not see often enough on a consistent basis.

And finally, it is imperative that you find your BIG WHY.  Why are you deciding to make a dietary change?  Why is it important to you to make a change?  For the sake of this exercise, everyone else is peripheral and does not matter.  What matters is why you want to make this change.  When things get hard, which they will, many, many times, time and time again, you have to be up for the challenge.  One of the greatest assets you can have to overcoming adversity is have a thorough understanding of your big why.  Why are you doing what you are doing?  If you cannot answer that question, you are not ready for change no matter how many people you are held accountable by.

When finding your BIG WHY, be as specific as you possibly can.  Quantify it.  Saying that you want to eat healthier because you would like to feel better is much too vague to be of any meaning.  Try to dig deeper.  Does eating better make you less lethargic after lunch, more productive at work, allow you to not be exhausted after work, prevent you from feeling sluggish and unmotivated?  Your BIG WHY can be a list of many things or if you are lucky, you can distill it down into one or two sentences.  Again, this is up to you.  You have got to want it because no one else can want it for you.  If you cannot find your big why you may not be ready at this time to make a change but that does not mean that you will never be ready.  If now is not the best time to make a change maybe later will be better.  Let it sit and come back to it.