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4 Ways to Hold Yourself Accountable to Your Goals

07/24/2015 09:12 am ET | Updated Jul 24, 2016
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Over the past few years, I've struggled with staying consistent with goals that I set for myself. I would make goals, legitimate things I wanted learn, or ways I wanted to better myself, and not stick to it. For instance, I attempted quite a few times to gain conversational fluency in a language, make exercising, healthy eating, and meditation on a daily basis a life habit. I would do my goal for a few weeks or even a few months, and then fall off, whether it be due to a shift in my schedule or if I suddenly became more busy. That was extremely frustrating, not being able to stick to the goals I set for myself. I'm sure almost everyone can relate to falling short of the expectations you set for yourself. I would constantly make excuses like, "I'm in New York, it's almost impossible to plan a consistent schedule."

More recently I was planning to undertake another feat (which I have tried several times before): making writing a daily habit. As I was mapping out how I would hold myself accountable for this "new" goal, I realized that I was regressing back to old habits... i.e., planning out my reminders through apps, writing lists, etc.

I caught myself, and had the realization that I'm acting out the definition of insanity... repeating the same thing over and over again and expecting different results...

I was taking the exact same approach as last time to achieve the goal I set. I've tried several different methods, such as accountability buddies, reminders, sheer willpower... but nothing has really worked well thus far.

I stopped and asked myself, "What's wrong with me? Why can't I stick to anything?" I beat myself up for a few seconds, then asked myself a better more empowering question, "How can I truly succeed at this goal?"

What I realized is that I was trying to squeeze my goal into my schedule, and not consciously carve out/dedicate time to it. That's when things get tricky. Your other everyday tasks will take precedent over your new goal. Achieving something is a practice, just as meditation, writing every day, working out, eating healthy, etc. are practices as well. Time needs to be allotted to it. As I continued to ponder, I came up with three ways to stay committed to a goal:

1. Be in the Right Mindset
You have to know your why... why is accomplishing this goal important to you? How will it ultimately improve your life? If you don't have a compelling enough answer for yourself, then you probably won't stick to it since it's not that important to you. You have to want to change bad enough, because when the going gets tough, you'll quit. Nobody wants to sacrifice for something that they don't see a lot of value in.

To put yourself in the right mindset you also need to be reading the right books, and talking to people with similar interests. If you do that you'll never need another reminder because it has now become a part of your life.

Personally, I realized that I wasn't in the right mindset since I was not reading books, I was watching more tv than usual, and just being an overall corporate zombie. I would get up, go to work, and come back home. Improving your mindset will significantly improve other areas of your life.

2. Make the Habit a Priority

During the time that I wasn't in the right mindset, I realized that my schedule was very disheveled. I would jump out of bed 20 minutes before I needed to leave for work, throw on clothes, and head out the door. No wonder I couldn't stick to my goals. When would I find time to make my green smoothie or meditate in the morning? My goal was not a priority, so I knew I needed to change that. The most effective way to turn your goal into a habit is to plan ahead. You can't hope that your goals will happen to fit into your current schedule, or that by nature you will prioritize it. You have to plan your schedule and block out time. That could mean making every Sunday meal prep day for the week.

3. Have an Accountability Buddy
Earlier I mentioned having an accountability buddy in my "list of things that I tried but didn't work." However an accountability buddy can work really well when you're doing everything else right. For instance, when I had an accountability buddy it worked out well and it helped me get far with my goal. The problem was that it eventually fizzled out since we both weren't committed to being accountability buddies, and other daily life things took precedent.

Moral of the story, an accountability buddy can help you make strides in your goals. The key is finding someone reliable and truly committed. If you can't find someone to be an accountability buddy, tell a friend or your family about what you plan to do. There have been several times when my friends and family have reminded me to stay on track with my goals when they see me getting distracted.

4. Educate Yourself on Your Goal
Nourishing your mind on the habit you choose to pursue is immensely helpful. Knowing more about the topic will help strengthen your "why." If you know that mediation is good for improving your overall health wouldn't that motivate you to do it more? Another great example is getting in shape. As most of us know, being fit is not only about exercising, but also eating healthy. How do you learn to eat healthy? By reading books, watching documentaries, and talking to your friends that care just as much about being healthy as you do.

At the end of the day, success in anything comes from making it a priority. Wanting to achieve something isn't enough. You have to make the conscious effort to better your life. It's not easy, but it can be a very rewarding feeling when you accomplish something you set out to do. Now I'm not saying that you shouldn't set reminders, but you shouldn't solely rely on that to keep you accountable to your goals. You should strive to make your new challenge an everyday part of your life, to where it becomes second nature like brushing your teeth. It should almost become a passion of yours, that you think about every day. Make the conscious effort to hold yourself accountable to your goals.

Alicia T. Glenn is the founder of Astounding Pursuits, a blog in which she shares her experiences and advice on how to accomplish cool things, and live a more fulfilled life by discovering and pursuing your passion. Join her free newsletter to get business ideas, life hacks, and strategies on how to live a more astounding life.