By Leo Babauta

From the questions you guys submitted a few days ago, it seems that accountability has been the biggest challenge in our habit skills so far. That’s OK! We’ll talk about how to overcome this challenge in today’s tips article.

I’ll dive into the Q&A soon, but first I wanted to make a few notes about accountability:

  1. If you don’t want to create it, that’s fine … but you’ll find in future habit changes that creating accountability is a useful skill to have. So if you practice it now, I think it’ll be worth the effort, even if you don’t feel you need it right now.
  2. If you don’t want to share too much, that’s OK. Just say, “Did my habit today, I’m 5 for 5” or “Missed the habit again, need to adjust my trigger”.

OK, let’s look at the questions.

Q: I would like more information about how to use accountability groups (or friends etc) for accountability. What helps someone be motivated to pay attention to what you are or aren’t doing. I have a group and we are encouraged to report but no one has ever checked in with me if I don’t do something. Friends usually get distracted by their own lives.

Leo: The best way to use a group is to commit to checking in every day, whether you do the habit or not. If you miss a day, check in and say so. Try to hold yourself to this — your group probably won’t check on you. If you want, you can ask them to check on you if you don’t report in for two straight days — give them your email and phone number. You might also commit to an embarrassing consequence for missing two days in a row, to your group and also a friend. Ask your friend to hold you to this consequence no matter what.

Q: I’ve realized that, while I am loving up sharing with my accountability group, I am not really comfortable yet talking about the work I am doing on myself and my habits with people in my life in the “real world”. Is this common or am I just… kooky? I realized this discomfort this month because having this feeling of … not wanting to talk to anyone out here about what I’m up to makes setting a consequence sort of hard for me.

Leo: That’s fairly normal, and we have different reasons for not wanting to share with people in real life: feeling like the change is too personal, not wanting to brag, worrying about them not understanding. But the most common reason is that often we’re not fully committed, and by not telling people, we’re giving ourselves an out if we don’t succeed. This last rationale is the one you want to watch out for, because it means you’re giving yourself a way out. I would suggest overcoming this discomfort, and just taking the plunge and telling everyone about the habit change. Be all in!

Q: For me personal it costs too much time to join accountability groups.

Leo: Sure, it can take a lot of time to look for and find a group. But this time investment is worth it, because you’re learning a valuable habit skill that will help with other changes in the future. Don’t let yourself rationalize not doing the habit skill. Overcome this problem and show yourself that you’re fully committed.

Q: I am not fond of sharing — too much negative feedback, do not want to be discouraged.

Leo: Yep, this can be difficult. Tell your group or partner that you don’t want negative feedback, and to always be supportive and positive. If they can’t do that, find a different group. But don’t let this rationalization succeed — there are lots of reasons not to do the habit or this particular skill, but you can overcome them.

Q: I’m not much of a group joiner, so I don’t ever sign up for accountability groups. It may be why I’ve fallen off the wagon so often. I am dedicated to completing this module this month, and I have additional small goals that are tied to my habit, and my habit forming skills month.


Q: Who should I be accountable to? If I am doing this on my own and don’t really want to share the process — is there another way to create accountability that doesn’t include another person?

Leo: No, accountability has to include someone else. You can do without accountability if you think you will definitely hold yourself to any consequences you set up, and it’s a good skill to develop to always keep your word to yourself. However … if you mess up and need accountability, the only way to do that is to use someone else. I would suggest you overcome your resistance to creating external accountability, and fully commit to learning the habit skills in this course. You could let yourself off the hook for this particular skill, but wouldn’t it be better to learn to overcome this resistance?

Q: I work with my fiancé and we seem to get each other “off track” with our habit efforts. We continually look for a way to be consistent but tend to lose our focus. If you have any special practice that would apply to couples and work habits.

Leo: Find someone else. A good fitness coach once told me that there are two people she never trains: herself, and her honey. She gets a trainer for herself, and she tells her honey to get someone else. I recommend the same thing for accountability. If you guys let each other off the hook for your commitments —which is quite normal — then you won’t really feel accountable to each other. However … one thing I’ve found to work well for couples is to do a challenge, where you challenge each other to do something for a week or two. Then do another challenge. Ask someone else to hold the two of you accountable, though.

Q: Every time I try to create accountability, the thing I promised usually fails. Because my friends don’t dare to give me crazy punishment and they know I won’t do it anyhow even I have promised them, especially when the punishment is too crazy.

Leo: Find someone who is willing to give you the consequence no matter what. Ask them to promise to hold you to the consequence, and only come up with a consequence that you’ll actually do. This is the friend you want to use for your accountability. Also, you should hold yourself to the consequence — make it a matter of honor, where you give your word to a friend and would never break it.