July 19, 2016

An Accountability Village

I’ve always been a ‘get it done’ kind of person. I’m usually juggling more than one project or opportunity at a time. I don’t like wasting time or energy doing something that isn’t productive.

There was once a time when I had three part time jobs, was a full-time student, volunteered as a weekly youth mentor and was part of a young adult bible study group. Surprisingly, I also made time for a social life. I’ve often been asked why or how I maintain a schedule like that. The truth is that I like being busy and I’ve been this way since I can remember, maybe it runs in my family.

Until recently, I always assumed that’s how my life would be – busy, structured and productive. I would be able to accomplish whatever I wanted to and it wouldn’t require much more than personal motivation. To my surprise, over the past year I’ve seen an interesting decline. I can’t juggle it all and I’m not following through like I know I should.

I’ve been trying to motivate myself to navigate through what has always felt normal – a job, evening classes, volunteering, reading a few books, exercising and other normal activities.

But I just couldn’t do it and I didn’t know why.

I started thinking about the differences in my life now vs. back when I had that crazy, yet manageable schedule and I’ve come to recognize that accountability is the key factor.

Accountability Back Then

For years I had a natural support system of family, friends and mentors that had been walking with me through many seasons of life. They knew me well and understood where I naturally fell short sometimes. My friends knew how to support me when I was falling behind in a class or on an assignment. Sometimes they’d say, ‘let’s do it together’, or they would ask me for help on something, which would in turn, encourage me to finish the work so I felt qualified to help. My family had healthy expectations and standards that would encourage me to do my best and to perform well. My mentors knew the right questions to ask and allowed for flexibility in our relationship so that trust quickly formed. These accountability partners were like second nature, and that’s why my hectic life worked so well.

I’m now realizing that in the past year, I’ve uprooted myself and moved away from all of that. I moved to a new city where I knew almost no one. In doing this, I stepped away from my natural community of support. I didn’t expect this to happen and I wasn’t prepared to handle it either.

Definition of Accountability

I’ve been learning that accountability is defined as more than just support. It’s more than personal motivation. It’s someone who believes in you – someone that’s expecting you to show up, to follow through, to deliver, to perform. You’re not just disappointing or inconveniencing yourself if you don’t, it’s about someone else in that moment.

During this transition, I’ve been learning how to rebuild my community. I’ve found it helpful to find accountability in new ways. Joining a book club to continue reading, getting a personal trainer at the gym, having a coach for my classes, and a dedicated mentor for my studies. Without these roles in my life, I know the outcome: nothing. On my own, I won’t follow through or show up. I won’t deliver or perform.

Accountability Now

To even say that out loud sounds odd to me, but that’s just how I work. I want things for myself, but it’s harder to pull out personal motivation. I’ve been coming to a deeper understanding of what drives me. I like having partners and companionship, being challenged and pushed. I like being able to make someone feel empowered when they’re able to help me accomplish something and I appreciate someone believing in me.

It’s about telling someone, sharing your process, finding a partner, or tracking your progress. Don’t do things alone or on your own motivation. People thrive on support, confirmation and encouragement from others. I’ve always heard the saying, “it takes a village to raise a child”, but I think it still takes a village even after you're raised.

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