It's easy to set healthy goals, but actually achieving them is much, much harder. Whether you're trying to make progress on your physical fitness or maintain your emotional well-being, it can be incredibly tempting to cheat… especially if you're the only person who knows what you're trying to do. I've definitely had some ambitions I let slide before, so a while ago, my therapist introduced me to my new favorite way to stay on track: having an "accountability partner"—someone who I can trust to keep me moving on a healthy path and who will call me out if I start to waver.
At the time, I was struggling with body dysmorphia, and my therapist encouraged me to remove all the full-length mirrors from my house. But to ensure I wouldn’t cheat, she made me turn over my mirrors to someone who could be my accountability partner. I chose my mother, who hid all my full-length mirrors for me, so I could no longer scrutinize my thighs every night before bed. Before I knew it, I'd forgotten to even want a full-length mirror, and over time, my body dysmorphia went from overwhelming to essentially irrelevant in my daily life.
Making those positive changes toward a more healthy body image would have been much harder—maybe even impossible—without someone else making sure I didn’t cheat. I know myself; without an accountability partner, I probably would have pretended to follow my therapist’s directions… and then kept on doing what I was doing, making no improvement whatsoever. But because I had someone I care for right there to keep me accountable, I made progress in an important aspect of my health.
Having an accountability partner can be great for your emotional or mental wellness, but it's also a great strategy for achieving fitness and diet goals. When you're trying to make significant changes in your daily routine, going it alone is hard. Having trustworthy people in your corner will make sure that you stick to the goals and resolutions you’ve made for yourself.
Be specific when setting your goals (and let your accountability partner know all about them).
I use the SMART method of goal-setting, an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Bound. Specificity is crucial to achieving goals; without it, it’s easy to fall victim to aimlessness. Saying "I’m going to lose weight," is too vague—it's much more effective to say "I am going to lose 11 pounds in three months by combining a healthy diet and Pilates classes." That way, your weight loss goal is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and yes, time-bound. And when you share your super-specific goal with your accountability partner, they'll know more precisely how to help you should you start falling off-track.
If you’re going to have accountability partners, they need to follow through. Checking in once in awhile isn’t good enough; a good accountability partner will check in regularly with friendly questions and statements to ensure you’re making progress. When I was training for my first half-marathon, I had a friend who was an avid runner push me to reach my goals. If I skipped a long run one day, she’d refuse to hang out with me until I took care of business. It sounds silly, but it worked! I didn’t want to let myself down... and I definitely didn’t want my karaoke partner-in-crime to go MIA on me for slacking.
"How many times have you been to the gym this week?" is a perfect way for an accountability partner to check in for a fitness goal. “What has your diet been like this week?” “Find any good Whole 30 recipes?” “How are you keeping up with your 8-week fitness plan?” A great accountability partner will know what to ask and will not let you slack—even when you want to. The only trick is, you have to pick someone who you really want to be honest with.
Peer pressure works.
No, not all peer pressure is bad peer pressure. Having a partner who is down for participating right alongside you while you achieve your goals is the best accountability partner there is! But if your partner of choice isn’t able to jump right into your brand new workout regimen, that’s OK. As long as you have someone cheering you on, you’re well on your way to achieving your goal.
Alexis Dent is a writer and cupcake aficionado from Western New York. Follow her on Twitter @alexisdent.