Who Is The Accountant In Your Life?
Updated: Jun 14
Go ahead and put on your surprised face. I am not a numbers gal. I mightily struggled through all levels of high school math in spite of having a mother with NASA-level mathematical skills. Eventually, I just stopped trying to do well. I knew I would never grow up to be a math teacher, or a scientist, or anything even remotely related to numbers. And I knew I’d definitely never elect to be an accountant, these heroes of math, dealing with numbers all day long while holding their company and/or clients accountable for what those numbers say and mean. How much courage does that take, being accountable all day?
Accountability is being responsible. It is taking stock of what is there, what is missing and predicting in a way what will follow. And it is absolutely not just related to the numbers swirling around our lives. Accountability can and should be applied to everything. What we do. What we say. How and if we bother to continue reaching for our goals. Accountability is everywhere. So the real question becomes are you holding yourself accountable?
Think about your goals. Maybe you set a few. Hopefully you write them down. You try and, like many of us, encounter some struggles. And then what? Are you holding yourself accountable for what went wrong and why things didn’t work the way you had planned? Are you holding yourself accountable for what you could change which could then change the outcome the next time around? Accountability with goals is not about berating yourself for failure. It is about learning so you can foster success.
Think about your diet or general physical health. Are you holding yourself accountable for what you are choosing to eat and how you are choosing to treat your body? No one way of eating or living works for everyone but eating right (whatever that means for your body and type) and getting enough activity (again, determined by your own body) is entirely up to you. We often don’t want to admit how much responsibility we bear for how we feel each day based on just these two metrics alone. All of the choices are yours. And at the end of each day when you have not stuck to your dietary goals or you have still not completed the reps from the physical therapist - that’s for you to admit. And then yours to fix.
How about accounting for your time? This is huge and I hear it perpetually - “where did the time go?” If you were a corporate lawyer juggling multiple accounts, you would have to document all of your activities so they could be billed properly. So why not do the same thing, law license or not? Why not write down what you plan to do, what you end up doing, how long it is taking and then review it periodically to account for your time? If it is good enough for the workplace it should absolutely be good enough for the rest of us. Time is passing, whether you know where it went on not, so why not commit to keeping track of the hours you spend on the planet? Maybe it will change what you decide to do with your time, or how much time you decide to spend on certain things.
And how about the things you can’t really put your finger on that are still all your responsibility? The energy you bring to a conversation or the room. The tone you set for the people you work with or the people in your home. The attitude you exude when you approach any task or activity. How could holding yourself accountable in these areas be a game-changer? Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it is neither your responsibility nor exempt from accountability.
And being accountable does not mean you have to do it alone. Accountability often takes the form of telling others about your intentions so they can check in with you and encourage you to keep going. Declaring that something needs to change and welcoming the feedback that tells you to try harder might be the difference between setting a goal and actually reaching one. Why do you think people find such success working out together? That shared accountability to each other, not negative or punitive in nature, shares the burden of doing something difficult, and more often than not leads to some measure of success.
Accountability has a bad reputation. It is what happens when someone is looking over your shoulder while you work, forcing you to tell them what is going on and what you are going to fix if you want to keep your job. But accountability should never be considered negative. It is the path by which you can find success. It only makes sense that if you do something that is less than successful you should stop to recalibrate your efforts so that the next attempt gets you closer to your desired outcome. Accountability is learning, growing and just getting better.
The level of effort. Your acceptance of responsibility. Your willingness to start a project, try to complete it, or to try harder when initial efforts fail. It takes great courage to look within to find the problem. It takes courage to accept your role in what needs to change. And it takes courage to keep going when the accounting just doesn't initially add up.
But if we don’t hold ourselves accountable for our life and the way it proceeds, who will? We are the only one who can really dive deep into what is working in our life, and what isn’t. Our actions, judgements, attempts and failures all belong to us. But then again, so does our success.
So try being your own personal accountant, not just with your financial ledgers but with all of your personal resources. Take regular and accurate account for what has happened, what you are expecting, and what needs to change. Look at your bottom line honestly and without judgement so that you can work to adjust things for a better outcome next time. And if you are as terrible with numbers as I am, hire a heroic accountant to rescue you with your finances. Everything else? Find the courage to hold yourself accountable in ways no one else possibly can.