Accountability Partners: To Have or Not To Have

 ***This post was originally published on 17 December 2019 on and is used with permission of the author.***

Are you the type of person who hates letting others down? Is it easier for you to miss a quiet, personal goal before you will disappoint someone else? If so, you would probably benefit from having an accountability partner.

It can be anyone, technically. But I suggest you find someone you love or trust, who also loves and respects you. Ask them to check up on you, or, better yet, schedule a regular appointment to review your progress.

A study I came across from The American Society of Training and Development showed that coupling your goal with a commitment to another person increases your chance of success by 65%. That number jumps to 95% if you incorporate a regular appointment with your accountability partner.

Another popular version of this advice is to build a social media following, collecting as many people as possible, leveraging peer pressure to accomplish a goal. The idea in both cases is that you’ll do everything in your power to avoid failing in the eyes of those you’ve invited along. If you’re the type of person that responds to external pressure, get yourself an accountability partner.

Fair warning, choosing the wrong accountability partner can derail your goals as easily as anything. In my experience, go with someone other than your spouse or significant other. They’re too close to the situation and what you need from that person is unmitigated support. For best results, get a mentor who is living the life you think your goal will help you achieve.

I’m sure this works for some people and I tip my cap to them. But, if you’re like me, having an accountability partner doesn’t work. In fact, it’s among the quickest ways to kill a goal.

Two things happen when I include someone else in my goals.

First, the minute I talk about my goals they seem to disappear into the ether. It feels as though all I really wanted was the atta-boy. I want people to say “Wow, that’s so cool! What a great idea.” Once I get that, some deep void is filled and I never move forward. I don’t know why this happens but why doesn’t matter.

Second, I refuse to allow other’s doubts to get in my head. Once you tell someone else about your goals, you become vulnerable to their opinion. It’s rare that someone will respond to your goals without any doubt. You’ll end up trying to convince that person that it’s a good idea or that it’ll work. Suddenly, in addition to the doubts you already brought to the table, you’ll have to deal with someone else’s concerns.

These days, I don’t tell anyone else about my goals. Not because I don’t love or respect my people. It’s not their fault; it’s mine. My goals are too important to trust to anyone but myself.

I decided to reframe the whole concept. Here’s what I believe now.

Tom Smith once wrote an article for where he introduced (to me) the concept of Renting vs Owning your goals. Tom wrote that nobody ever washed a rental car. The only investment you make in renting a car is transactional. It’s superficial.

I believe when we tell people about our goals, we risk inviting a transactional element to the equation.

I’m afraid to fail. Not because of what others will think but because I’m afraid of what I’ll think of myself. Someone else’s opinion of me holds little sway compared to my personal expectations.

Last, it’s easier to own results than plans. Plans are necessary but they’re also cheap compared to tangible results. Your hopes for the future are never as sweet as living the life you want.

With that in mind, ask yourself, “Will an accountability partner help or hinder my attitude?”

Own your goals. Be the steward of your future.