This article is part of a five-part series on High Noon’s values:
Contributed by Andrew Love
We all need accountability.
In any area of our lives we view as important, we need accountability.
Accountability is this spectacular and almost magical process that allows for us to be exposed to the best and worst attributes we embody.
Strangely, there is no other language that has an exact translation of this word either. Accountability is a uniquely English word, but the application is universal. It means to have what we normally hold inside, visible to others as well. It means to reveal the positive and negative aspects of our lives with another real person and asking, “How am I doing”.
It is the process of making our word flesh, because when we recount honestly with others, the information becomes known to them as well.
When you are in a clearly defined accountability relationship, you express what it is that you’re striving for to another human being. When someone else knows what you are seeking to accomplish, it becomes evident whether or not you are living up to your promise/hopes/goal because an accountability partner is somebody who acts as a mirror.
So, what is an accountability partner or AP?
An accountability partner simply put is somebody you ask, or relationship that you form where you profess the longings of your heart and continually check in about your progress.
This relationship can manifest in many different ways. It can be in fitness, where you are looking to achieve a certain level of health. If you are at one level, like at a certain weight and you would like to lose an amount of weight by a certain date, then you explain those details to your AP.
The benefit of this first step is that you become more clear about what you actually want, the WHAT. Somebody can’t properly provide accountability to you if they don’t know what it is that you want. The more clear you are in what you are seeking after, the easier it will be for them to keep you accountable to that. If it is abstract, like “I want to be happier”, then it will be nearly impossible for them to help you because happiness is not a measurable goal, it is a feeling.
So, you need to define clearly what happiness looks like how you would experience it so your AP can say, “Did you do this or not?”. The more you can simply respond with ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, the more streamlined your relationship with your AP will be. So, the first step is learning how to identify what it is that you want in the clearest and simplest possible form.
The second step is to define the WHEN—a date. The more you define the timeline of your objectives, the more confidence the AP will have that they can help you.
A goal like ‘I want to be happy forever’ is a disaster. As is ‘I want to get healthier soon…” Neither one provides a clear sense of the WHEN or the WHAT.
It is very helpful to provide dimensions, or parameters, so that you can celebrate victories together. Celebrating your growth and acknowledging your shortcomings together with your AP is a massive part of acclimating to growth. When we are struggling through figuring things out on our own, failure becomes all consuming and it becomes increasingly more difficult to even see your victories let alone celebrate them.
Take for instance getting rid of porn before you enter a committed relationship. That is the main group of people that reach out to High Noon to ask for help. The most motivated people we’ve seen to rid their lives of porn are those who are on the bring of entering a serious romantic relationship. The reason is that when you are young and single it’s easy to adopt the “I’ll figure it out later” mentality, but when later finally arrives, that’s when the stakes are raised.
Having a timeline also allows the person in recovery and the AP the opportunity to test one another out. As the person seeking an AP, having a specific start and end date for your relationship is affords you the opportunity to see how reliable the AP is and if they are able to provide you with the support you need. Are they the right person for me? Am I the right person for them? That way, neither one of you feel stuck. Nobody wants to be stuck in a relationship, especially one that you willingly entered for the sake of growth.
When you have a clear goal in front of you, it brings out the very best and worst of you. If you set out to reach a specific goal and you aren’t able to accomplish that goal, you have a golden moment to ask yourself ‘Why didn’t I reach my goal”. The more you live in this way, your good and bad habits become much clearer. Most often, your shortcomings are more obvious to those who are caring for you (you AP) because they can see your blindspots. Eventually though, it becomes more crystallized which limitations are standing in your way.
In the example of health, If you set a very clear goal for how much weight you want to lose—and by what date—you can clearly see whether you have an issue regarding diet, or fitness, or whether you lack integrity of doing the things you say you’re going to do. Although you may not be able to see exactly why you’re not reaching you. When you check in regularly with an accountability partner, It is like checking in with yourself.
A lot of times we are stuck in our heads, trapped in a concentric loop of the taunting thoughts. Being caught is a wave of negative self talk is very similar to being dragged under a wave in the ocean. When you get pulled down by the undertow, it’s impossible to know which way is up or down and the more you flail your limbs, the more you struggle. Your best chance of survival in such a situation is to become limp and allow your body to float back up to the surface.
Likewise, if we are fighting our own thoughts, we will only go deeper and deeper down into a dark place. When we stop flailing and report to our AP, it’s natural for us to feel a sense of relief and we start floating back out from the anxiety ocean floor.
When we have an accountability partner, they act as our mirror. They can help us see when we’re in a state of self defeating thoughts or justification. They help us to become aware of our patterns and can ask us questions like “Do you want to live like this or do you want to change?”
At that point we are able to decided what type of person we would like to be because an option is presented in front of us.
Everything is very theoretical until we are in a relationship. People have no idea what type of parent they will be until they become a parent. It’s the act of doing that both reveals your limitations and stretches your limitation of what you thought was possible. You can’t understand love from a book, it’s something that takes years of practice. Even people who have attained external success usually do so at the behest of another area of their lives.
Accountability is the practice of being in an intentional relationships to build the muscle of integrity. Have someone in your life to check up on you is like lifting you out of the realm of theory and putting your principles into 3 dimensions.
Another important point about accountability is that even those of us who are driven can often become successful in one area of our lives at the behest of the other areas. This is why you can see billionaires having affairs on their spouses, or why extremely wealthy athletes can loose all of their money, or others who fall pray to corruption.
When we become so intensely focused on one area of their life but lack accountability elsewhere, we are setting ourselves up to live out of balance. That lack of equilibrium will inevitably cause us to suffer at some point. Having an extra set of eyes to see beyond our own narrow focus is always a plus.
So who would make a good accountability partner?
This is not cut and dry question. It does require some effort and some trial and error in order to find out what type of accountability is suitable for you. There are some basic guidelines that we can offer which will help you expedite the process.
First of all, the person you are seeking accountability from should have more stability in that area of life than you do. If you are seeking an AP for sexual integrity, then that person should have more sexual integrity than you. Although it is possible to be in an accountability relationship with somebody who is in the exact same position as you, it can much more often than not be a negative and a positive.
The reason for this is if you are constantly accountable to somebody who’s struggling the same as you, you will constantly be reminded of how stuck you both are. When someone is drowning, they need someone with more stable footing that them to get out of the water.
If the other person is on a real growth track and you’re able to lift each other up, then it can be helpful. But it is still nowhere near having somebody who’s on a higher level who’s reaching down to lift you up.
So, the first step is to find somebody who is has more integrity in the area that you’re seeking integrity after to be your kind of accountability partner.
The second step is to define the relationship with this person and figure out whether you want communicate every day, week or month. It is advisable to do to have daily accountability because that is the fast track to growth.
You will be able to see yourself much more clearly.
You will be able to see your habits much more transparently.
You will be able to see yourself and more three dimension If you monitor yourself and report on yourself and get feedback from somebody else on a daily basis.
An accountability partner ideally is somebody who you can report to and receive feedback from. It is not fundamental, but occasional advise more helpful than simply having someone to receive your reports.
For some, the mere act of reporting to their accountability partner is powerful, but it lacks the fundamental give and take we all crave.
Knowing that somebody is reading your reports can help you feel both the burn of your mistakes and the triumphs of your victories. At the same time, it doesn’t necessarily help you to mentally and emotionally process why you made mistakes, if you don’t receive feedback.
You want somebody who is not going to judge you every time you make a mistake, but at the same time you want somebody who has the courage to be honest with you, remind you of your goals and tell you when you’re messing up.
Asking somebody to be your AP who has the bandwidth to both receive your reports and respond accordingly would be ideal. If you want to report to them daily and speak to them weekly, that could work as well.
Somebody who is a coach or a mentor is different than somebody who provides accountability. A coach or a mentor provides you with education with guidance. They’re responsible for your growth, because it’s a reflection of their ability to impart success.
But an accountability partner on the other hand is somebody who is merely helping you coach yourself, mentor yourself, and they’re only really responsible for guiding you through the process. So, in reality it is best to have both a mentor and an accountability partner.
A mentor pushes you and tries to bring the best out of you.
An accountability partner is much more like a mirror who allows you to see where you’re at, and helps you figure out where you need to go by letting you go through the effort of understanding yourself more precisely.
We need accountability in order to stay truthful to ourselves and others. It is our way of keeping our integrity muscle fit at all times.