I’m part of several informal groups for what I’d call “chronic overachievers”. Alumni groups, coaching supervision groups, and one for Academia on the Side (for people who haven’t got research academic jobs but still want to do and publish academic research). What these groups have in common — besides me as a member — is that, whenever we gather to talk about why we’re part of the group, lots of people say they’re seeking “accountability”.
I love these groups, and Strava and other such things besides. I find things like online writing “parties” via Zoom helpful because you’ve made a date with other people, and peer pressure is a powerful thing. Like athletes on Strava, we’re looking for people who will cheer us on when we succeed and when we struggle, but who will also nudge us sometimes, with a wry wink, “Shouldn’t you be [running/writing/delete as applicable]?” We all seem to be looking to increase our motivation and become more reliable in delivering for ourselves.
Inviting others in to help us force ourselves to act is a common human reaction to tackling tough challenges. But if we’re really looking for accountability, that means the buck stops with us. We’re responsible for whether something gets done, and we answer for it. So people’s tendency to bundle up seeking motivation and reliability with a quest for “accountability” got me thinking. What can we learn from these groups and apply to our goals when there’s no writing group or social media hashtag ready at hand?
Here are three suggestions for motivational practices to keep you going. These aren’t one-and-done motivational tips, but deeper, thoughtful questions and reminders to help you do the work. Think French press, not caffeine pill.
1. What’s my record?
Let’s be candid, among friends. What’s your record of success with building habits, or breaking them? And how do you know?
“So what’s your evidence of that?” is one of the most common questions we ask in coaching to probe and challenge beliefs that might be getting in someone’s way. Normally, our evidence for Belief X is a combination of some default patterns of thinking (“I’m rubbish at getting things done”, “I’m…