Hold yourself accountable

In Clear Thinking, Shane Parrish writes:

Self-accountability means taking responsibility for your abilities, your inabilities, and your actions. If you can’t do that, you might never move forward. 

You might not have someone in your life who holds you accountable, but that doesn’t matter. You can hold yourself accountable. Others might not expect more from you, but you can expect more from yourself. No one else need reward or punish you into it.

Things don’t just happen to you; the future is not written. 

I was lucky to learn this lesson the way that I needed to hear it, from an enthusiastic philosophy teacher in high school. 

He would challenge each of us to take responsibility for our lives. He would practice it too, saying things like, “If you fall asleep in class, that’s not your fault. As a teacher, that’s my fault.” (Nobody fell asleep.)

You know what your boss/mentor/teacher/coach/business partner isn’t thinking? “I wish you were less accountable. I told you what I thought was important, and I wish you took less responsibility for making those things happen.” As you work your way into a better future, this is something to keep in mind. 

You can also enlist the support of other people. Shane gives an example later in the book:

I used to find myself checking my email whenever I have a second. I’d check it before I got out of bed, on the walk home from work, in line at the grocery store. 

It’s easy to tell myself that I’m not the only one, that everyone does this too. The dopamine hit of something new prevents many of us from working on our priorities. It isn’t just that I was spending too much time on email, though, it’s that email could hijack my time from what’s important. The scary thing is, I often wanted it to take me away from what I was supposed to be doing….

The path to breaking bad habits is making your desired behavior the default behavior. To get on track with the report, I told my colleagues that until the report was submitted, I’d buy them all lunch if they caught me with my email open before 11:00 a.m. My being competitive and not wanting to buy them lunch created enough friction to keep me from checking it first thing in the morning.

As Shane writes, “The path to being exceptional begins when you decide to be responsible for your actions no matter the situation.” 

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