What do you think the phrase is that I hear all the time as a coach and a trainer?
Is it: “I need —
to lose weight.”
To be fair, I do hear those frequently. But the number one thing people say to me is,
“I need accountability.”
You can’t hear the tone when reading this, but it’s usually with some resignation, frustration and maybe a little disappointment. The majority of people are judging themselves for not being able to follow through without having an outside person to report to, especially when it comes to exercise.
But I think we’re focusing on the wrong thing and being too hard on ourselves.
Having accountability in your life for something that is important to you is less about “checking in” and more about creating a shared experience.
What if we think about accountability as a positive thing, not with contempt?
If you want accountability, it’s because you want to share and celebrate in the joy of your accomplishments, which is fun and powerful and motivating.
We can stop berating ourselves like this is bad thing to seek out human connection.
Think about when you’re at work or if you’ve completed a big project at home. Most of those things don’t happen in a vacuum. There’s other people that have either supported you directly or you’ve turned to during the process. How come we don’t have that same paradigm or way of being when it comes to our health and wellness (at least without judging ourselves!)?
When we get to talk about the experience, the struggle and the success with others, it’s so much more fulfilling. This is accountability.
It’s about connection with others and feeling a sense of belonging, beyond a checklist of what we’re supposed to do.
It’s not really a surprise that it’s easier to get to the gym when it’s a group class or with a trainer. Or why programs like Weight Watchers are successful.
We’re Wired For It
I was recently reading Brene Brown’s Atlas of the Heart and it came to a section about loneliness. She talked about the difference between being alone, the sense of peace and healing it can bring, compared to loneliness, which is more about isolation and disconnection. This isn’t really a natural state for us as humans.
What stood out to me was the research she shared completed by John Cacioppo, who founded the field of social neuroscience. She summarized it like this: “As members of a social species, we don’t derive strength from our rugged individualism, but rather from our collective ability to plan, communicate, and work together.”
Working together is all about connection and belonging — which we are “wired” for, according to Brene’s own research.
What if that lack of motivation to workout or eat healthy is less about “needing accountability” and more about a life filled with connection and joyful celebration. It’s just more fun to share stuff with people you like! Perhaps it’s a bit lonely to do your workouts and eat healthy food in isolation… Being in community has a certain energy to it that feeds a deeper part of us.
I want to take the negative out of the word “accountability.” I want it to be a positive. I want it to be about realizing, you WANT to share what’s happening in your life with others. I want it to be about being wise and letting go of the idea that you have to do everything on your own.
It’s ok to want someone else to be a part of something WITH you.
Connection Brings Joy
Accountability is not about being a failure. It’s not a representation of your discipline. It doesn’t mean that you’re less independent or capable. Remember that other person or people aren’t doing the actual work FOR you, they’re just part of the overall experience.
So, the next time there’s a project or a thing you want to accomplish and you feel heavy or frustrated or don’t want to start, instead of beating yourself up because you’re trying to figure it all out by yourself, change that narrative.
Ask yourself a different question…
Where can you create accountability and connection in your life, especially for your physical and mental health?
Here are a few ways I do that:
- I have a Facebook group so I could share the meals I cook, so it’s filled with recipes and I love it when the members post what they’re making too.
- I meet weekly with four wise, creative and whole-hearted women during which one of the activities we do together is sharing our wins (you wouldn’t believe how empowering this is!)
- I go on retreats by myself, typically once a year that give me a space away from all my roles (wife, mom, coach) to just be and re-connect with myself.
- I have a trainer/coach that yes, gives me workouts, but also is there to virtually high five me when I’ve hit a personal record or working through something funky.
- I have a life coach that I work with periodically for breath work and other deeply soulful experiences, that help me feel seen and heard.
- My mom, cousin, sister and I schedule Sparkle Days where we have fun and spend time together that’s filled with love and laughter.
- The gym where I work is filled with connection, community and excitement for both trainers’ and clients successes. It’s given me a strong sense of belonging.
One of my values is connection, so I think that’s why it shows up in so many places in my life, from how I eat to how I workout to my profession as a trainer and coach. I need my quiet time and I also know it’s fulfilling for me to share life with others on more than a superficial (ahem social media) level.
All of those things above don’t mean I suck at doing life by myself. It’s meant that I have created lovely and wonderful relationships with people who have helped to make me more resilient, gave me a stronger sense of self and brought me so much joy. That’s definitely not a failure. I’m thankful for every moment of accountability and will keep looking for it and building it into my life.
May you let go of the idea that accountability means weakness. May you realize you don’t have to figure it out all by yourself. May you seek connection.
P.S. This photo of me eating popcorn with chopsticks is from one of the members of my Facebook group who posted about how much fun it is to eat popcorn this way. I’m thankful she shared this and my son can now be found eating all kind of snacks with chopsticks! 😆