Sunday, August 19, 2012

living with purpose: does accountability work?

Thanks so much for the encouraging feedback on the first Living with Purpose column! A lot of you liked the idea of a 25 minute vow, but were also interested in thoughts on how to maintain that commitment. I think we can all agree that setting goals is always easier said than done. So I'd love to talk about accountability today-- do you think accountability works?

Sometimes I think accountability is crucial to getting things done. When I was a college student minoring in Poetry, my homework was to submit a new poem every week to workshop. The workshops held me accountable to submitting poems on time and my classmates' feedback encouraged me to keep writing quality work. While homework can be tedious, we can easily get it done when other people's time is at stake. In a similar vein, at Code Academy, friends learn to code together but can't get to the next class level until everyone completes their homework. It's crazy how productive we are when other people are involved!

Yet I've also experienced times when accountability sucked the joy out of goals, making me less productive. In elementary school, I really wanted to play the piano. Within a year, my parents' overzealous accountability of my practice schedule made me quit playing altogether, because it was just wasn't fun anymore. (Later, I got really into the violin, so all ended up well with me and music.)

Accountability can also put a strain on relationships. My friend Emily who was raised in Nashville has said, "In the South, there is a fine line between accountability and judgement." I think this can be true anywhere--we can so quickly feel judged if we aren't meeting expectations. Accountability can sound like criticism too, i.e. if  our friends are warning us to stay away from our exes, but we fail every time, even if we agree. (Honestly, who hasn't been there? ;)

What's your take on accountability? I wonder if there is a black or white method to how exactly it works -- after all, entire industries and businesses exist because of our need for accountability (Weight Watchers is the first thing that comes to mind, ha!). Do you think having close friends keeping us accountable is a smart idea?

(Photos: Frida Kahlo with self-portrait, film star Lauren Bacall & daughter, and Clint Eastwood)


  1. I love this series. But I don't know that there's a method of how accountability works. I think it's one of those things that everyone internalizes and finds their own way of going about. Plus, people hold different individuals accountable differently. You know what I mean? Like I might hold my best friend accountable for well...being there for me, but I hold co-workers accountable for getting shit done. Love this and love you for doing this!

  2. Thanks so much for the encouraging feedback on the first column of purpose of living! A lot of you liked the idea of a 25 minute wow.

  3. Very good blog and informative also which is very helpful for purpose of living.


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