Three keys to developing financial accountability
“Surround yourself with those who are on the same mission as you.” – Unknown
I believe that accountability is a critical factor in successful goal setting and that this is especially true when it comes to financial goals. A couple of months ago, I was asked to write a testimonial for a man who has helped me a great deal over the past 18 months with my personal goals and it forced me to think about what specifically it is about him and his approach that has had such a strong impact on my success. What I realized is that it wasn’t so much his natural coaching ability or his compassion that made him successful as a coach, it was the fact that he led by example and he never let me off the hook when it came to doing what needed to be done in order to reach my goals. He wouldn’t let me set the bar lower than it needed to be and he held me accountable for taking the steps necessary to reach my goals. Knowing that failure (and laziness) was not an option forced me to step up even when I was fearful or unmotivated.
Surround yourself with the right people
When it comes to managing money and building wealth, being held accountable dramatically increases our chances of success. I’ve written before about the theory that we are the sum of the people we spend the most time with.
Related article: The Sum of Five People
If you spend most of your time with people who will allow you to make excuses when you get off track and who will lead you into temptation with their own spending habits it makes sense that it’s going to be much harder to achieve your goals. Conversely, if you’re surrounded by people who are committed to achieving their own goals and who won’t hesitate to let you know what they think when you don’t do what you need to in order to succeed you are more likely to be successful.
As I was writing my testimonial it occurred to me that a good accountability partner has three main characteristics:
They don’t let you off the hook
As I thought about my mentor and then back to high school and university I realized that the teachers who had impacted me the most (in a positive way!), and in whose classes I had made the most progress, all shared common traits. Each one of them was strict but fair and each one of them was known for not being willing to extend deadlines on homework or essays under any circumstances. Many students disliked them because they were so strict but I found that I thrived in their classes because I was too afraid of the consequences to risk not doing what I was required to in order to do well! An accountability partner needs to be strong enough to call you out when you’re doing less than you’re capable of and they need to be able to do it in a way that’s not confrontational or demoralizing. Putting someone down by pointing out their flaws and non-successes is not the same as holding them accountable to a standard that they’ve set for themselves. An accountability partner is someone who gives you feedback in order to build you up, not tear you down.
They walk the walk
If you’re relying on someone to hold you accountable for your goals then it’s important that you can see and respect the effort that they dedicate to achieving their own. Our goal group meetings are focused on the progress and challenges of the individual members and the leader’s role is to facilitate the discussion and solicit feedback rather than share his own goals. However, just knowing that he is working on his own goals and seeing his progress inspires us to dig deeper and keep working on ours. An accountability partner functions like a pacesetter, they set a standard that encourages you to push a little harder in order to keep up and their progress motivates you to keep moving towards your goal. This is especially important when it comes to financial goals because in trying to eliminate debt, manage your money more effectively and build wealth you’re aspiring to achieve goals that are in direct opposition to the materialistic, debt-laden norm of our consumer-driven society. Working to achieve your goal alongside someone who is on the same path makes it a lot easier to stay motivated when it feels as though you’re paddling upstream.
They celebrate successes
An accountability partner should be genuinely happy for you when you reach a goal and not threatened at all by your success. They should also remind you to celebrate every step of the way. Sometimes we get so caught up in focussing on how far we still have to go to reach our goal that we need reminding of how far we’ve already come. Celebrating success with an accountability partner is powerful because their unique understanding of your journey gives them a totally different appreciation of how significant each step really is.
As human beings we have an innate need to be seen; to be recognized and validated for our progress and accomplishments. When you’re working to achieve a goal, you tend to be driven by something that is personal to you and that motivator is not always understood or supported by those around you. Having an accountability partner is more than just having someone on your side who understands your journey. It’s about having someone in your corner who believes in and supports your reason for starting that journey in the first place, who will remind you of it when you get off track and who will hold you accountable for finishing what you set out to achieve.