Medically reviewed by, Russell Braun RPH
Have you tried and failed to reach a health related goal in the past? Unless you’re perfect your answer should have been yes. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to improve your likelihood of success by 85% – 95%? The great news is that there is a way to do that and it is easier than you think. It simply involves having an accountability partner who is armed with the right questions.
When it comes to your health, there is no more important reason to achieve goals. Disease is becoming the norm in the western world with poor diets and sedentary lifestyles. You need to have someone who will help tell you the why you need to exercise when you don’t feel like it.
What Is an Accountability Partner?
An accountability partner is a person who coaches another person with the idea of helping them meet a goal or commitment. Some people think of the term “accountability partner” in a negative light. They may think of it as someone who dishes out discipline or punishment.
You need to look at an accountability partner as a coach and a friend. Someone who is on your side cheering you toward achieving your goal. When in search of an accountability partner this is the type of person you’re looking for. The goal would be for this relationship to be an ongoing friendship.
Why is it Important to Have an Accountability Partner?
Accountability partners can have an enormous impact on your ability to reach a goal. Multiple studies have been done looking at what makes you more likely to reach a goal. They all found correlation between having an accountability partner and increased chance of goal attainment.
The American Society of Training and Development did a study that found just committing something to another person increased the chance of meeting a goal to 65%. When that commitment was backed up by an accountability partner the chance increased to 95%!
As you can see in the chart below there are many things you can do to increase your chances of achieving a goal. However, if you want to almost ensure it, the accountability partner is the key. These are not made up numbers, in fact the American Psychological Association has studies to support this as well.
Accountability Partner Questions
- They are free
- Help build friendship
- You learn about your partner and yourself
- Helping them returns value to you
- Allows you to feel fulfilled
- Can be similar to masterminds
- You and partner may not be a good match
- Scheduling can be challenging
- Arguments could set you back in pursuit of goals
How do You Determine Accountability?
The ultimate way you know if you’re being held accountable is to see the end result. However, that will take time so there needs to be a way to determine accountability in early stages of progress.
It is important to show your accountability partner you can be trusted and your word is good. The only way for that to happen is when you clearly lay out:
- How it will be measured
- When is feedback provided
- What are consequences of not meeting goals
The best way to go about laying this out is with SMART goals. These type of goals are the best way to determine accountability.
|S – Specific||The goal is direct, detailed and meaningful.||I will walk more so that I am getting 150 minutes of exercise per week.|
|M – Measurable||It is able to be measured in order to track progress.||I will schedule 5 walks each 30 minute in length per week.|
|A – Attainable||The goal is realistic and you have the tools to reach it.||I may have to take short breaks or walk more slowly while building up endurance.|
|R – Relevant||It aligns with your overall improvement in health habits.||This helps me achieve my daily steps and movement goal for the week.|
|T – Timebound||Your goal has a specific time for completion||Every Sunday I will look at my walk time per week and ensure that the goal of 150 minutes was met.|
What do You Expect From an Accountability Partner?
Your accountability partner is going to be someone you interact with frequently. Therefore, you will want to chose this person wisely.
That doesn’t mean you should choose a softy who will let you get by with things. That will not help you achieve your goals. Instead you should expect the following at a minimum from your accountability partner:
- You are coaching each other
- They agree to listen first
- There is scheduled feedback
- You discuss challenges
Your expectation of an accountability partner should be they make you better. That will translate into you being more healthy. A structured process with clear accountability partner questions will ensure results.
What Makes a Good Accountability Partner?
Their are certain qualities you should look for when seeking out an accountability partner. Long term it will likely turn into an accountability friendship. A true friend is going to want you to achieve your goals. In some cases that means they will have to tell you when your getting off track.
The table below lists characteristics to look for:
These characteristics will ensure a friendship can be built that serves you and them. Accountability is not easy, which is why a resilient, resourceful and relentless partner can make all the difference.
Ultimately, true accountability is your choice and can’t be forced on you. There will be times when you feel tired, tempted, discourages or unmotivated. This is when it is great if your accountability partner is willing to be available for some quick inspiration. You should set boundaries on when you can communicate in the following ways for support.
Accountability partners who can be reached quickly to resolve a temptation can go a long way to help you stay on track. This is especially true when your accountability partner is helping you with health related goals such as:
- Connecting with others
- Smoking cessation
How to Find Your Accountability Partner
Know your goals
Before you start you search for an accountability partner it is important that you already know your SMART goals discussed above. Trying to find the right person to hold mutually accountable will be difficult without those goals in mind.
Tell your friends
Next, tell your friends your looking for an accountability partner. This will lead them to asking what it is for. The more people who know your goals the more likely you are to try and achieve them around those people. For example, lets say your cutting back on processed food. If you have told a friend this and they want to grab fast food, it will be easier for you to say no and they would understand.
Another reason telling friends is a good idea is they may suggest people you would not have considered.
The next step is to look online for local meet up groups in your area for the goal your wanting to accomplish. Just google meet up near me and your goal.
Another way to find help online is through sites that are dedicated to supporting groups. Meetup.com is a great resource for a variety of topics. Another one for more fitness related searches is Active.com.
Ask the question
Finally, your going to have to ask someone if they are interested in being your accountability partner. Explain to them your goals and what you hope to accomplish via the relationship. Some people feel more comfortable with this after a bit of a trial run. Don’t hesitate to offer that as an option that you could try it for two weeks. This may help you find someone to help you but not lock you into a bad fit.
Studies have shown that accountability partners can make you more likely to achieve your goals. Don’t be too shy to ask the question!
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Set Time Each Week for Your Accountability Meeting
Once you find the right person to be your accountability partner the next step is setting a meeting time. Ideally, it would be every week. Of course, there may be times when that needs to be moved but once a week is ideal.
The meetings can be held in a variety of formats. Changing the meeting settings can be a good way to keep anticipation high for the meet ups. Below are some ideas for your meetings from best option to least favorable.
- Face to face while taking a walk outside
- In person while relaxing
- Via Facetime, Zoom or other video call
- On the phone
- Updates via email, text or social media private messages
Now you have the person, the schedule and next up is the questions to ask.
What Are Accountability Questions?
Once you know your goals and pick an accountability partner your making great progress. Now you need a plan for your meetings that will get you results. This means knowing what questions to ask each other.
If holding your feet to the fire is all you ever do with your accountability partner then you will begin to dread the meetings. Therefore, make sure you allow some time each meeting for fun topics. Not to worry, I have you covered with those sort of questions below.
1. Did you meet the goal according to the measurement in the allotted time this week?
SMART goals are measurable and time bound. Asking this question sets the tone for all the accountability questions to follow.
2. Do you feel the goal was attainable?
If you failed to hit the target you need to assess if it is attainable. This should spark good conversation with your accountability partner. If you exceeded the weekly goal, then you may want to adjust the goal upward for the the next week.
3. Does it still feel like that goal is relevant?
You may find that your goal isn’t specific enough or should be tweaked. Asking this question is a great way to make sure your reviewing the goals with someone who can provide another perspective.
4. What are you struggling with?
This could be just about anything such as: mental outlook, body image, self doubt, big obstacles, working too much, not getting to bed on time or even just feeling defeated. Getting these things out in the open helps you deal with them.
5. Are you exaggerating or downplaying anything?
Did you really eat as good and exercise as much as you said? Addictive behaviors can be easy to downplay, especially when it comes to food. Being honest that is the easiest way to work through changing bad habits into good ones.
Do you complain too much or are you expressing gratitude? These discussion topics will spur growth toward meeting your goals.
6. What did you learn about yourself?
You may find your often self conscious, self pitying or self justifying. All are great conversation topics that an accountability partner can leverage to get more out of you.
7. Describe your biggest highlight.
This is the feel good question. Share a highlight and get some praise! This creates a positive feedback loop in your brain for attaining your goal.
8. What is stressing you out this week?
Nothing impacts humans more than unneeded stress. While a little bit of stress is healthy we live in a world where it seems constant stress is the norm. Figuring out what is causing your stress in order to reduce that stressor will help you achieve any health related goal.
9. What do you need to do to make next week successful?
This is the to do list you should be jotting down to track for next week. These will be your action items to check off or keep in mind as the week goes on.
Questions That Keep Accountability Partnerships Enjoyable
You have to ask the tough questions above to ensure goals are met. However you don’t want this to be a process you dread. Therefore, asking some more lighthearted questions can help foster the accountability partner relationship. It will also ensure you can have something to look forward to talking to your accountability partner about each week.
10. How are you enjoying life?
11. Did you spend time this week on your relationships?
12. Do you feel like you worked towards your purpose in life this week?
Putting It All Together
As you go through the questions and answers each week, it is important to capture a few things. First, listen for solutions to problems your accountability partner may provide. Next, take some time to celebrate the wins. Make sure you modify goals as each week goes by.
As weeks progress you will feel more confident as the small incremental improvements compound.
The next step is to complete your list of action items for the following week. These are the microgoals that help you achieve the larger objective. Make sure you read this back to your accountability partner so you both agree on the action items.
Ultimately, the responsibility for accountability lies with you. Your partner can help push you but as the week goes by you have to be the one to follow through.
Realizing that you need an accountability partner is over half the battle. Now go out find one and all but ensure you will reach your health goals!
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Share Your Story
Do you have an accountability partner? Chime in below with your comments and thoughts.
Carson, T. L. et. al. Examining social influence on participation and outcomes among a network of behavioral weight loss intervention enrollees. J Obes. 2013 Jun: 6-8.
Norcross, John et. al, Auld lang syne: success predictors, change processes, and self reported outcomes of New Year’s resolvers and non resolvers. J Clin Psychol. 2002 Apr;58(4): 397-405.