Let’s Talk Semantics 2: Accountability
January 16, 2011 § 3 Comments
In essence, accountability is when one person makes a commitment to him- or herself via another person’s knowledge of that commitment. So, for instance, when I say, “I’m going to perform a certain action in a certain amount of time solely for myself,” what I mean is, “I want you to yell at me if I do not perform a certain action in a certain amount of time solely for myself.”
Sometimes what I really want to say is, “I want you to take responsibility if I do not perform a certain action in a certain amount of time solely for myself.” Sometimes I want the word “accountability” to mean that someone else can take the fall for my failure to come through on a specific commitment.
Don’t manage to write my 2 pages a day? Surely it’s someone else’s fault.
Can’t shake that weight? Obviously Lay’s is to blame.
But here’s what I’ve really started to learn as a grown-up: the cold, hard fact of the matter is that nobody can actually take the fall for my actions (or inaction). And now I pause for the Internet to unanimously and in perfect harmony let out a mighty: DUH.
Well done, Internet! Bravo!
Anyway. So, fine, it has finally sunk in that asking others to help me stay accountable does not necessarily and automatically make them responsible for my goals. I am learning how exactly to employ this knowledge. For instance, on Wednesday night last week, I seriously did not want to work. At all. But when Robert got home from work, I begged him not to make me cook dinner because I hadn’t accomplished a thing yet. We talked a minute about a Plan B and finally settled on eating out nearby to my favorite coffee shop. After dinner we would sit in the coffee shop until they closed; Robert would play whatever he wanted to on his laptop, and I would work. After dinner, I still did not want to work. At all. But Robert held me accountable and put it to me this way: “it is 7 p.m., and they close at 10. You’ve got three hours.” Of course…I also had to teach my first day of class the next morning, and I did not like the prospect of staying up at all hours that night finishing my pages.
I finished my pages at 9:55 p.m., and we were in bed by 10:30. (Of course…I didn’t sleep that night, but that’s not the point!)
I’m also learning to ask for help while seeking accountability. I guess they go hand-in-hand.
Accountability is taking responsibility for your own actions while simultaneously asking for help. We are really asking for someone to help us remember that someone else is aware of our goals. We are asking for help because we ourselves aren’t perfect. We are asking for help because we know that we can only achieve our goals when other people are involved, even in the smallest way…even if it’s just to keep us on track.
And that help, that accountability that someone else holds us to, is the point where we realize the actuality of our intended goals.