It’s easy to set goals for yourself. Following through with them is a bit harder; this is why gyms that are packed with people in early January are half-empty by early March. As it turns out, it’s much easier to say you want to lose 50 pounds than to actually do it. Having a goal is incredibly important, don’t get me wrong. Without a defined goal, there’s nothing to work towards and no motivation to get there. Problems only begin to arise when you come up with the idea of a goal, but you don’t have any real intention to get there. It’s one thing to say that you want to do something, but another thing entirely to actually do it.
Given how common it is to set a goal and not adhere to it, the best way to avoid being that person is to make yourself accountable. Saying you want to do something isn’t good enough. You need to be reminded of that goal, to be pushed and furthered to achieve it even when you want to give up. That takes a little bit of extra work on your part, but the difference in success is night and day.
The following methods are some of the most effective (and proven) methods of increasing your own accountability to your set goals.
1) Write it down
As simple as this process is, the effect on both your memory and commitment from writing something down is significant. It is believed to help with memory retention, and by writing out your goals, you are putting into physical form that which you wish to achieve. People who write down their goals will often place their written plan in an area where they will regularly see it. This makes it so that they are routinely reminded of what it is that they set out to do; if they fail to work towards that goal, they will be reminded of that fact.
2) Map out a plan to make it happen
Setting goals for yourself is only the first step. You need to know how you are going to achieve that idea, which is why writing out a step-by-step plan is so helpful. Not all goals are entirely realistic, while others might require more work and effort than you initially expected. If you are trying to achieve something that seems rather optimistic, it probably is. That’s not to say that you can’t meet that goal, but if you go in expecting the process to be easier than it is, you might find yourself getting discouraged very quickly.
This is especially true if you are setting goals in a business. If you want to increase your yearly revenue by 50% next year, you need to have a concrete plan of action. Just “working harder” is not going to make that happen. Lay down a piece of paper, identify the things you need to work on, and come up with a way of solving these problems. This will also have the effect of making you more invested in your goal; you’ll have sunk a fair amount of time and money into making it happen, which will make you want to see it through to the end that much more.
3) Do it together
Holding yourself accountable on your own is really difficult. You never have somebody checking in on you, nor do you ever hear somebody validate your efforts or offer advice as to how to do it better. This is why sharing a goal with another person can be an incredibly powerful motivator. Instead of going to the gym by yourself, go with a group of people. Instead of setting time aside to study on your own, go with a couple of like-minded students. Having a supportive group of people who are all trying to achieve the same goal will both motivate you and help keep you accountable.