When asked what helps someone to achieve their goals, one answer you’ll find most often is accountability. This magic word is something that we all seek in many areas of our lives. Our health and fitness goals, especially, seem to be easier to reach with increased accountability.
And, although we all know that we need to be held accountable or we need to hold ourselves accountable, in many ways, this is easier said than done. This is why 90% of health-related New Years Resolutions are abandoned by January 15th.
Of course, there are ways to increase accountability. People do it every day to help them reach their goals. Today, we’ll talk about some of those way, so that you can have a higher chance of success as you try to become the best version of yourself that you can be.
But, before we get to those points, let’s look at why we have a hard time with accountability in the first place…
What Beliefs Have to Do With Accountability
Typically, when we’re seeking to be held accountable for our actions, it’s because we’re wanting to make some sort of change. Weight loss, for instance, is one area where many people want to be held accountable.
The number of modalities that you can utilize to help you achieve a weight loss goal are limitless: go to Weight Watchers, use a Fitbit, download MyFitnessPal, higher a coach, join a walking club, have surgery.
All of these modalities have varying degrees of accountability and therefore will bring you varying degrees of success. For instance, Weight Watchers meets every week. You are held accountable by being weighed in every week and having your points scrutinized by the instructor.
MyFitnessPal, on the other hand, holds you accountable in a few different ways. You can track your weight, track your nutrition, track your movement and so on. But an app holds you less accountable than a human or group does.
The Power of Beliefs in Making Change Happen
So, if we have so many choices for accountability, yet we struggle to have sustainable change, then what do you need to do in order to make those changes stick?
This is where beliefs come into play. Many of us seek out help in pursuit of a fitness goal. And, in that pursuit, we have a belief about what our possibility of achieving our outcome truly is.
For instance, maybe you’ve tried multiple times to get back in shape. And yet, every time you’ve tried, you failed to reach your goal. Over time, your belief about what’s possible gets smaller and smaller.
Or maybe you believed that you had the potential to run a marathon. Once you failed the first time, your belief shrunk to running a 5k. After a second failure, now you’re just hoping you’re able to walk around the neighborhood a couple of times without hurting yourself.
How Cognitive Dissonance is Holding You Back
The idea that I’m presenting here is known in psychology as Cognitive Dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort you have when you hold two contradicting ideas or beliefs at the same time.
In the example of weight loss, our actions in the pursuit of weight loss mean that we want to able to achieve our goal, but our underlying belief is that we’re not truly able to achieve weight loss because we’re too old to make that happen.
As you can see, the beliefs don’t match the actions. Therefore, eventually you will inevitably fail at yet another attempt of better health and fitness.
It’s Time to Build Stronger Beliefs
I give you this psychology lesson, not to bring you down and tell you you’re a bad person (I realize that the previous text is a bit demoralizing. The good news is, you are able to turn things around). Understanding that your beliefs stand in the way of you achieving success may be the one thing that sets you free.
Human beings are adaptation machines. As such, we are able to make changes whenever we want, IF we understand what the underlying beliefs that support those changes. Change your beliefs, change your habits.
How to Change Your Beliefs for Greater Accountability
The purpose of accountability, then, is to support our beliefs about what is possible. We don’t have to start with an unwavering belief. But there has to be some small inkling inside of us that tells us that we can do it.
So, now that we know we need to change our beliefs before we pursue accountability, what do we need to do to guide our beliefs in the right direction?
This may be one of the hardest things you do. Changing your beliefs is like trying to take a toy from a 2 year old, you may feel like you’ve succeeded in the beginning, but your mind will not give up without a fight.
#1) Build Awareness
Changing beliefs begins with becoming aware of what our beliefs actually are. You may not even know that you have certain beliefs about what’s possible. But, many times they come out in conversation with others.
For instance, one line that is absolutely unacceptable at Thriveology, yet we hear from potential members every day, is “I’m just too old to…” (there is not enough room in this post to explain why this phrase is unacceptable. For now, just understand that you can do anything you put your mind to). The belief, here, is that age dictates what is possible in health and fitness. As a society, we believe that, as we age, our ability to achieve our fitness goals gets smaller and smaller, to the point of no return in some people’s minds.
Any time you hear yourself saying something along these lines, or thinking something along these lines, be aware of it. This is a belief you are ingraining in yourself.
#2) Stop the Belief in its Tracks
Once you’ve become aware of the belief that is holding you back, the next step is to stop its forward progression. We are able to make changes to our beliefs, but only if we recognize them and consciously move to supplant them.
But this takes time. And, a good way to start to turn things around is, next time you feel yourself trying to support your limiting belief, challenge it by thinking of all the ways that your belief has been proven wrong. If you believe that you’re too old to lose weight and get healthy, seek out people who are your age who have achieved greater levels of vitality (the average age at Thriveology is 45-55. Each one of them is a contradiction to the limiting belief of age).
#3) Replace the Old Belief with a New, Supporting Belief
Now that we know what our limiting beliefs are, and we’ve sought out examples of how it’s been proven wrong, it’s time to replace your limiting belief with a supporting belief. Out with the old, and in with the new.
A great strategy to start to ingrain new beliefs Is by creating bright lines. The idea of bright lines comes from a great book called Bright Lines Eating by Susan Peirce Thompson.
The idea behind bright lines is simple yet super effective. All you have to do is finish the following sentence with your new, empowering belief about yourself…
I’m the type of person that….
For instance, if you’re struggling to eliminate sugar from your diet, you would create a bright line that goes “I’m the type of person that doesn’t eat sugar during the week”. This does 2 things: first, it ingrains your new belief about who you are. Second, it keeps the possibility open for you to have sugar on the weekends if you choose. This way you don’t feel like you’re trapped without sugar forever!
To get started, create 10 bright lines around the person you know you can become. Write them down on an index card and carry it with you at all times. And when you’re struggling with your beliefs about yourself, pull out your bright lines card and read each and every empowering new belief!
Don’t let yourself fall into the same trap of looking for external accountability, when you haven’t done the hard work of changing your limiting beliefs and setting yourself up for success.