We all have things we want to do, goals we wish to achieve, versions of ourselves we aspire to become. These aren’t demands placed upon us by the necessities of life, but the goals that we want to achieve for ourselves to grow as people.
Visions of becoming a painter or writer, getting straight As, running a profitable business, or learning a language or instrument are easy to conjure. Taking sustained, necessary actions towards achieving these goals is far harder and is something most of us struggle with. This is even more true for people with ADHD, who struggle greatly with doing the things they say they’re going to without any external motivating factors.
As many of us know, when it comes to working for ourselves, we’re terrible employees and even worse bosses.
Fortunately, as research shows, there are several interventions we can take to help us stay on track and fulfill the promises we make to our future selves.
“The price of greatness is responsibility.” — Winston Churchill
An accountability partner is someone you share a commitment to achieving a goal with and who follows up with you throughout the process to make sure you stay on track.
Research has shown that accountability partners substantially increasing the likelihood of one achieving their goals. The American Society of Training and Development found that if people commit to achieving a goal with another person, they’re 65% likely to do it. This figure rises to 95% if they have regular catch-ups with one another to measure progress.
If you’re serious about achieving your goals, enlisting the help of someone to help you get there and making a commitment to them is an easy and effective way of helping you get there.
Don’t just choose anyone. This person needs to be someone who will you call you out on your bullshit and you respect enough to not let down.
An accountability partner may not be enough, however. It could be worth considering making the costs of defection higher with a commitment device.
A commitment device is a way of binding yourself to a set of actions in the hope of helping you achieve your goals. Rather than relying on your own, internal (at times questionable) drive to succeed, commitment devices create real, external consequences for you not following through on your promises.
Some examples of commitment devices are:
- Making your commitment to a goal public (like sharing it on social media)
- Set up financial penalties or rewards
There are some great apps out there that can help with this, including stickK and Beeminder. They enable you to put money on the line to help keep you in check.
A lot of our goals are related to being something. The fact is, to become something you aspire towards, you need to actually do.
Having a goal like “I want to be able to play the guitar” is the first step. Increasing your chances of attaining it requires you to be a great deal more specific.
You need to break down the journey into concrete, measurable steps so that you know if you’re on track or not. As Peter Drucker, the famed management consultant, said:
“What gets measured gets managed.”
If you’re not tracking your progress, it’s far easier to lie to yourself and make excuses.
Here are some questions you need to answer break down your goal into more specific, actionable chunks:
- What concrete actions will I take towards my goal? (eg. Practice for 20 minutes a day)
- When will you do it? (eg. At 8.30am)
- How will I know if I’m succeeding? (By X date I will be able to achieve Y).
Track these things and share them with your accountability partner. It will be obvious if you’re progressing towards your goal or not.
If you employ some of the ideas laid out above, you’re far more likely to achieve the vision you’ve set for yourself. Life is not a game we play by ourselves. By enlisting the help of those you respect and trust — those that want to see you become the person you have to the potential to be — you’re more likely to keep the promises you make to yourself and have a better time while doing it.