Being Accountable 101
Learning to be accountable can seem like a pretty scary goal for many people, especially when you apply accountability to all areas of your life. Being accountable means, you can no longer shift blame to other people, pass off responsibility for your emotional outbursts, or deny the role you have played in your success or lack thereof.
In fact, being accountable means, you must face your demons, look at all your flaws in the glaring light of day, and confess to the role you have played in your personal unhappiness up until today.
But, learning to be accountable for yourself, your actions, your emotions, and your money will allow you to achieve both personal and professional goals that can bring you happiness and finally allow you to carry out all your dreams in life.
If you are ready to start taking responsibility and start living life on your terms, then our accountability guide has you covered. We share why being accountable will improve your life as well as teach you strategies you can use for learning to become more responsible to yourself and others.
Related: What Habits Do You Need to Become Accountable?
What It Means to Be Accountable
When you are accountable, it means that you accept responsibility for or are answerable for something to yourself or others. Accountability includes taking responsibility for your actions, being able to explain your decisions and behavior, and realizing that, while you may not be responsible for every detail of something, you are in charge or ensuring it takes place or is done successfully. In essence, being accountable means, you follow through on your commitments and responsibility, doing what you know is necessary when it needs to be done.
Accountability takes on many forms, including personal and professional types. When you learn to become accountable for your own actions and for the outcomes of your life, you have personal accountability. Being accountable for your group or organization’s outcomes is another form of responsibility.
Accountability ensures that you understand and accept the positive and negative consequences for your actions in any area in which you assume responsibility. It is imperative that expectations and roles are clear for someone to be held accountable, as well.
Being Accountable to Yourself
When we are young, we learn responsibility by having consequences for our actions provided by our caregivers and peers. We learn to engage in specific behaviors because they are rewarded or to avoid other actions because they are punished.
Later in life, though, you must learn to regulate your own behaviors and hold yourself accountable when there are no longer figures of authority telling how to behave or what to believe.
When you learn to be accountable to yourself, you accept that your actions and values have created your present situation, your strengths and flaws contribute to your success in life, and your choice of relationships and how you manage your emotions influence your overall happiness. Accountability means you understand your role in your existence as well as your own ability to change your life if you wish.
Taking responsibility for yourself can help to improve your relationships with others as well as yourself, enhance your self-esteem, allow you to grow and develop into whatever you choose, and reach the goals toward which you strive. Personal responsibility is an essential life goal that is crucial for anyone who wishes to achieve their dreams and live the happiest life they can.
Being personally accountable can encompass many areas in your life. For example, you should hold yourself responsible for your actions and choices. These include how you spend your time, how you communicate with other people, the ways in which you treat your friends and loved ones, how you treat your body and health, your mindset and attitude, and your reaction to personal challenges and setbacks.
You are also accountable for your personal responsibilities. For example, are you on time for your commitments? Do you take care of your home, vehicle, and workspace? Do you manage your money appropriately? Can people depend on you to do what you say you will do? Following through on your roles and responsibilities and executing your daily action plan are all part of being accountable to yourself.
Finally, you are accountable to yourself for your goals. You have things you want to do in your life. You likely have goals about your health and fitness, financial health, your family, your career, your relationships, and your personal growth and development. These goals are essential to you, and you should be accountable for your actions toward making these goals become a reality.
The only person in your life that will hold you accountable for your actions is you, so the sooner you learn to be accountable to yourself, the sooner you will start realizing your dreams and becoming the person you have always wanted. It is your life; only you have the keys to unlocking your potential and reaching the heights that you can achieve.
Related: How To Hold Yourself Accountable
The Benefits of Being Accountable
There are many reasons you should embrace personal accountability and learn to accept responsibility for yourself. Here are just a few.
#1. You will have less stress. When you are accountable for your role and responsibilities, you will know exactly what you need to do and can manage your time best to accomplish your goals. You will not waste time with excuses or placing blame on others when you hold yourself accountable. When you are personally accountable, you will feel more satisfied with all aspects of your life, leading to lowered stress overall.
#2. You will experience higher levels of success. Being accountable to yourself and others means you carry out your tasks and goals on time, which allows you to reach your goals with greater efficiency. When you are accountable, you take your responsibilities and commitments seriously, ensuring that things are completed on time, too.
#3. You will have stronger, healthier relationships. Being personally accountable means people can rely on you and trust you to follow through on your commitments. They will feel more positive toward you when they feel confident that you will be there for them when they need you, too. When you are accountable to yourself, you have more self-confidence and a positive outlook on your life, which helps others connect with you, as well.
#4. You will know you are on a path toward success. Accountability requires setting milestones and meeting your goals, which helps you track your progress and know that you are getting closer to achieving your dreams.
#5. You will be more motivated. Being accountable helps you ignore distractions and stay on course because you know that you must answer to yourself or others for your progress. You will be more motivated to stay engaged and remain focused on what you need to do when you are accountable.
Related: Five Ways to Hold Yourself Accountable So You Can (Finally) Reach Your Goal
The Habits of Being Accountable
Now that we know what accountability is and why it is important, it is crucial to understand exactly how you behave when you are accountable. Being responsible is not just one thing; instead it is a combination of habits and mindsets that ensure you stay on track, accept your responsibilities, and watch your progress.
If you want to learn to be accountable to yourself and others, then you should focus on developing these habits of mind and behavior that are most often seen in responsible people.
1| You Accept Responsibility
Being accountable means that you take responsibility for yourself as well as things that are important to you. You manage your time and actions so that things get done that need to be done, and you do not shirk away from your commitments, once you have made them.
You accept that you play a role in your own happiness and success, and you refuse to shift blame or make excuses when you have setbacks or missteps. You see how your emotions and actions influence your own life as well as others, and you own your role in your own ability to achieve your goals.
2| You Are Timely and Respectful
Being accountable means doing what you say you will do when you say you will do it. It means showing up on time for your commitments, being there for others when you promise you will, and respecting others time in the same way that you want yours to be respected. Accountability includes the traits of dependability and efficiency, which means you are not wasting your own time nor the time of other people.
3| You Think Proactively
Being accountable means that you try to keep progress moving forward, which requires thinking through and having a plan for dealing with potential obstacles and possible setbacks. Proactive thinking requires you to check your progress and be prepared for obstacles, which will ensure your success, no matter the challenges you may face.
4| You Control Your Emotions
Instead of allowing your emotions to control your life, you are in charge of how you react to your feelings. Even in the face of disappointment or upset, you control your response to emotions that have the potential to derail your progress and accept that you can decide whether to react to the strong emotions that you are likely to experience along the way.
5| How to Become More Accountable
Learning to hold yourself more accountable is something you can practice and learn to do over time. It is a set of skills that will require patience to hone but, when you become dedicated to this endeavor, you will see the benefits of accountability in your life.
We have included many different strategies that can help you learn to be more accountable, both to yourself as well as other people. Select several that work for you and practice them regularly.
6| Write Your Mission Statement
If you want to become accountable to yourself for accomplishing your goals and realizing your dreams, you need to know what it is you want and what is important to you. To start, it is helpful to write a mission statement for yourself, which will make this more concrete for you.
What are you working toward and why is it important to you? Your mission holds your core values, which should guide your actions and help you remain clear about what it is that you are trying to create with your life.
7| Make Sure to Set Small Goals, Too
Long-term missions and visions are important, but if you want to ensure that you will reach those lofty ambitions, you must have short-term milestones, as well. These tasks serve as building blocks to the larger mission and help you stay on track and remain focused.
Small goals are great ways to practice developing new skills or embracing new mindsets, as they are things you can do in a single day or week that help you realize positive results both now and in the future.
8| Learn to Be Smart with Lists
Writing things down is essential when becoming accountable, but it is equally important that you use this strategy well. Having a list of 100 things to do can start to feel overwhelming very quickly. A more manageable daily list will have 5-8 tasks, depending on their complexity. Project plans are great, as they list out all the steps that need to happen to reach a final goal, but not all of those should be on your daily to-do list.
Be sure to prioritize your lists and do the most important things first before moving on to other tasks. Organize your list so that you are keeping like tasks together, which will allow you to be more efficient with your energy, as well. If you find your system is not working well for you, then try a new strategy. Not every type of list or organizational style works for everyone, so find one that works best for you.
9| Document How You Spend Your Time
If you want to hold yourself accountable to your goals and commitments, start by getting a handle on how you spend your time. Track your activities for a week (or even a month) to see how you are really spending your hours every day. Data like this is crucial for holding yourself accountable for meeting deadlines or fulfilling commitments.
There are all sorts of time tracking apps you can put on your phone or computer to make this task more manageable, and once you see how you are spending your time, reflect on where you need to make changes. If you have a priority, for example, of becoming healthier, how much time are you devoting to this each week? If your goals and time are not aligned, where do adjustments need to be made?
10| Create Positive Reinforcements for Yourself
Rewards are much more useful than punishments at changing behaviors. If you want to hold yourself accountable, create some incentives for yourself related to your milestones. Perhaps you leave work a little early if you carry out all your tasks for the day. Maybe you indulge in a massage if you work out four days this week.
Whatever it is, your incentive should reinforce your goal and be something you can earn in a relatively short amount of time, usually less than one month. When you are first starting out, try small goals and small rewards, and increase the time it takes to earn your rewards as you experience more success.
11| Don’t Multitask
When you really want to do something efficiently and stay on task, do not try to do more than one thing at a time. While multitasking may seem like a bright idea, it actually makes it harder for your brain to concentrate and for you to do an excellent job with either of the things you are doing.
Complete one task at a time, and do not move on to something else until you have finished the first job. Check email only a few times per day rather than stopping what you are doing many times throughout the day to “check in.” Turn off notifications and ringers when you are trying to get something important finished.
When you are trying to accomplish several big goals in your life, it is also better to tackle these one at a time, too. Trying to change many things in your life is setting yourself up for failure on all these critical aims. Pick the one that is most important to you and focus on it first. Once you have made this a new habit in your life, you can start on a new goal.
12| Solicit Feedback from Others
Sometimes, you may have a different idea about how accountable you are to other people than they do. Ask those you trust is they view you as dependable and trustworthy. What suggestions do they have about how you could improve in this area? Talk with those you admire about how they hold themselves accountable for reaching their goals.
13| Reflect on Your Progress
Give yourself a regular performance review to hold yourself more accountable for progress toward your goals. Manage yourself in the same way a supervisor would manage you. If you set out a list of expected gains or accomplishments this year, what have you achieved thus far? In what areas are you exceeding expectations, and where do you see opportunities for growth?
Doing this on a regular basis means you are thinking about what is working and where you need to grow, and it provides you a chance to set new aims for yourself.
14| Be Sure You Understand Your Expectations
To hold yourself accountable, it is imperative that you know just exactly what is expected of you, whether by yourself or others. If you do not know your goals or your role, how do you know if you are doing what needs to be done? The same is true of your relationships with others. Unclear responsibilities and expectations make it impossible for you to be accountable.
15| Set Quarterly Goals
Dividing your time into three-month chunks helps you to hold yourself accountable for several reasons. Firstly, three months is just about the perfect amount of time to accomplish something substantial. Three months goes a lot faster than you might think it will, yet it is not so fast that you can’t check off some critical goals.
This time frame is significant enough to hold your attention without losing interest while also feeling just about perfect for reevaluating your long-term plans and goals. This means you will reflect on your progress toward your long-term dreams four times a year, which will ensure you are on track and holding yourself accountable regularly.
16| Share Your Goals with Others
While it is great to sit down and write your goals out for yourself, it is also important that you share these with someone else. Sharing your goals with a broader audience makes them more “real” for your brain and helps you stay accountable.
It is easier to let yourself off the hook when no one else is expecting to see your results, but when you have shared your goals with others, you suddenly have more people who are waiting to see if you can follow through. You can share your goals with trusted friends or family or in an online forum that is dedicated to accountability.
17| Take Ownership of Your Mistakes
Learning to be accountable is not just about taking credit for your progress and positive steps. It is also acknowledging and accepting your mistakes and past failures. When something goes wrong, you must apologize for your role and make amends.
You must also learn from your mistakes to ensure that similar problems do not happen in the future. Be sure you sincerely feel regret for your errors and that others know this if you want to build stronger relationships and for others to accept that you are accountable for your problems.
18| Learn to Manage Your Time
Being accountable to yourself and others means never procrastinating things that are important, which can lead to problems and delays which affect you as well as others. When you put off important tasks until the last minute, you run the risk of burdening others to help you finish on time, of not meeting a deadline, and of delaying your progress toward your goal.
Procrastination is a self-sabotaging strategy that your brain uses to justify your lack of interest or to neglect your responsibilities, so ask yourself why you are procrastinating and what this means for you.
19| Be More Selective
Taking on too much is another way you may be sabotaging your own efforts and not holding yourself accountable. When you overextend yourself, you are bound to let someone down, and that person is most often you. When you are asked to take on responsibilities and commitments, ask yourself if you genuinely WANT to do it, CAN do it, and SHOULD do it.
If you can’t answer “yes” to all three of those, then this is not something you should commit to doing. Saying “no” is a way to set up boundaries for yourself and respect your goals and time. Make sure you understand the expectations before saying “yes” so you can ensure you have the time and energy necessary to fully satisfy the request, as well.
20| Keep Learning
If you are accountable, you understand that you can learn a great deal from the mistakes you make, and you view all experiences as learning opportunities. When you learn from your mistakes, you ensure you will not repeat them, which means you and others can rely on you in the future not to repeat your errors.
21| Focus on Commitment
Being accountable requires a commitment to stay with a take until you get the desired results. This type of tenacity develops over time and requires you to regularly challenge yourself. Try challenging yourself in new ways regularly to build up your commitment and teach you to remain focused when things become challenging.
22| Build Your Resilience
Another crucial aspect of accountability is sticking with a task even when things get hard, or you experience challenges, which requires resilience. How do you react when you first start to experience struggle? Work on harder and harder tasks to teach yourself resilience.
Learn new things that challenge you, too, to build up your strategies for solving problems and overcoming obstacles. Encourage yourself to push on when you come up against obstacles.
23| Set Time Limits
When learning to be more accountable, try setting specific limits for how you spend your time. Do not spend excessive amounts of time, for example, on mundane tasks if you have important things that are a high priority.
Limit how much time you allow yourself to spend on social media or online shopping when others are waiting for your work so they can do theirs. Set a timer for “off-task” behaviors to ensure you do not allow them to suck up your day.
24| Keep Your Promises
If you want others to see you as accountable, they must know they can trust you. You must view promises you make as a sacred responsibility. This will help you respect them and honor them, even when it is difficult. Making promises only when they are essential and meaningful can also keep you from over-promising and only accepting what you can genuinely deliver.
If you can’t fulfill someone’s request, be honest with them and let them know you do not want to disappoint them when you can’t give them all that they need right now. If you must break a promise to someone, be sure to be honest about what happened, show sincerity in your apology, and find a way to make it up to that person. They may or may not be able to forgive you, but it is important that you accept the consequences of your actions and their response.
When you learn to become accountable to yourself as well as others, you will take ownership of your actions, your life, and the outcomes of those. Being accountable means accepting your role and responsibility as well as your actions and emotions. And it requires that you accept the consequences, whether they are positive or negative.
Learning to be more accountable in your life can help you accomplish personal and professional goals and realize your dreams. It will bring you less stress, make you more productive and efficient, and allow you to set your sights on loftier ambitions. Being accountable to yourself will give you more confidence and boost your self-esteem and being accountable to others will improve your relationships.
There are virtually no negatives to learning to become more accountable in your life, but there is an extensive list of positives you will see when you start accepting responsibility.