The Real Reason You Struggle With Accountability — and What You Can Do to Master It

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A thriving business requires a good balance of strategy, commitment and dedication. Having a great idea and putting in some effort is no longer enough. To stay relevant, we must know how to match the pace of the evolving business landscape. Otherwise, we risk falling behind or being left out entirely. This fear of falling behind often leads us to take on too much. We overwhelm ourselves, making it difficult to keep our commitments. Before we know it, we’re lost in the hustle, struggling to keep up with our own goals. Ironically, our eagerness to succeed can sometimes be our biggest hurdle. Instead of facing our challenges, we end up taking a few steps backward. Why are we sabotaging our success?

Truthfully, no matter how hard we try to manage everything, there will always be things that fall through the cracks. This means we won’t always be able to deliver the results 100% of the time. At times like this, accountability is the best weapon at our disposal. It’s what keeps us on track and ensures we are constantly moving forward. However, it’s also the one thing that we often struggle with the most. Even when we desire to be accountable, it just doesn’t seem to happen. What’s stopping us? Why is accountability such a challenge for many of us? What’s the real reason why we struggle with it?

Related: Four Ways To Hold Yourself Accountable For Success

The culprit

Being accountable is tough, but the real reason we struggle might be simpler than you think. It’s not because we’re lazy or bad at managing our time. Our lack of accountability stems from the failure to understand our basic human nature. If you take a look at what we are wired to do, you’ll discover that we naturally avoid things that are hard or uncomfortable. Our brains are wired to seek pleasure rather than pain. And being accountable is not comfortable, so naturally, our mind creates a barrier between us and accountability. This barrier is often referred to as our ego.

Our ego serves as a defense mechanism by creating a comforting illusion of control and competence in our lives. It’s our mind’s way of shielding us from the harsh reality of our shortcomings. Whether we’re aware of it or not, it creates resistance that influences the way we tackle our commitments. When we face challenges or risk not meeting expectations, our ego interferes to protect our self-esteem. As a result, we cling to excuses and justify our every drawback. This desire to protect our self-image causes us to repeat the same avoidant behavior until it becomes a habit. Relying on our ego to protect us at all times affects the way we run our business.

In research by Yin et al., published in the January 2022 issue of Social Psychological and Personality Science, it is shown that powerful individuals or people in key positions are likely to blame others instead of taking responsibility. This is because as humans, we’d rather point fingers than confront our issues. We’d rather be in denial than let other people know that we’re struggling. Let’s be honest, at some point in our lives, we are guilty of playing the blame game just to feel better. However, this cycle of ego-driven behavior only leads to self-sabotage in the long run. So if we are conditioned to avoid discomfort, how can we hold ourselves accountable?

Related: How This Entrepreneur Finally Stopped the Cycle of Self-Sabotage

Breaking through the barrier

The good news is that, while our ego may be preventing us from being accountable, it doesn’t mean we’re doomed to fail. Once we identify this barrier and understand its impact on our behavior, we can take steps to overcome it. Here are a few ways to start breaking down your ego:

Understand what accountability truly means:

One of the biggest misconceptions about accountability is that it equates to perfection. Many of us believe that to be accountable, we must flawlessly execute our commitments and make no mistakes. Instead of making ourselves better, we end up becoming perfectionists and punish ourselves at the sight of a mistake. This causes us to associate accountability with punishment. In the long run, it suffocates us until we no longer have the sense to separate punishment from accountability.

This belief couldn’t be further from the truth. We are not gods. In reality, we’re bound to make mistakes, and that’s okay. We just have to understand that accountability means that we are responsible for our lapses. It means that we can own up to our mistakes, learn from them, and commit to doing better next time. With this shift in our understanding, we don’t have to beat ourselves every time we make a mistake. We can now think more clearly and use it as an opportunity to address issues without being afraid of our mistakes.

Learn to embrace discomfort:

Just knowing what our ego can do is not enough to be accountable. We have to be able to embrace discomfort and allow our ego to take the backseat. For this to happen, big changes are required. However, making changes is not easy to do. Not many can abandon their beliefs and embrace the changes that come with accountability. Without the will to change, it’s going to be hard to commit and become accountable. This usually happens because we have conflicting desires within ourselves — one that pushes us to become better and one that pulls us towards comfort. This creates a conflict in our minds, making it hard to take consistent action. If we truly want to move forward, we have to resolve this inner conflict and accept that discomfort is part of our journey to becoming accountable. But how do we go about doing that? What makes accountability uncomfortable in the first place?

Accountability works like a mirror. It reflects everything, including the things that we don’t want to see. It shows us not just the good parts but also the flaws and imperfections. Noticing our mistakes shows the difference between what we claim we can do and what we actually can do. This realization can be uncomfortable, as it often triggers our desire to avoid shame and guilt. However, we must understand that these emotions are not enemies but indicators that we’re invested in our success and personal growth.

We shouldn’t be uncomfortable with it, and we should learn how to accept it. Acceptance doesn’t guarantee an easy path, but it gives meaning to each difficult step taken toward growth. So the next time you feel uncomfortable with accountability, try to embrace it instead of pushing it away. It’s a sign that you’re making progress towards becoming a more accountable person.

Lean on the right people:

Let me tell you a simple fact: No one can be accountable alone. While commitment can be an individual effort, becoming accountable requires support from the right people. Just like how a tree needs strong roots to grow, we need a solid network of individuals who are willing to hold us accountable. These people can’t be just anybody, because our accountability also depends on who is holding us accountable.

When it comes to selecting the people we surround ourselves with, it’s critical to choose individuals who are not only secure in themselves but also have big visions for the future. People who are secure provide a stable and supportive environment where vulnerability is not only accepted but encouraged. This secure space is fundamental for fostering accountability, as it allows us to openly share our challenges and setbacks without fear of judgment.

Related: Here’s How Finding the Right Accountability Partner Will Help You Meet Your Goals

Additionally, surrounding ourselves with visionaries who dream big and aim high inspires us to elevate our own aspirations and stretch beyond our comfort zones. These individuals serve as living proof that great things are possible, propelling us to pursue our goals with renewed vigor and dedication.

And most importantly, you need a person who is willing to tell you what you need to hear and not what you want to hear — a person who can hold you accountable for your actions and decisions, no matter how uncomfortable it may be. Because without someone to keep us in check, we may easily fall back into our old ways and continue to let our ego dictate our behavior.

True accountability is not a corporate initiative that can be led from the boardroom. It’s a deeply personal commitment to own up to every part of our lives. It’s indeed easier to just avoid accountability and continue living in the bed of our excuses. However, at the end of the day, making a conscious effort to choose accountability is the same as choosing yourself. It’s being true to your word and taking responsibility for your growth.

So don’t let your ego hold you back. Embrace the challenge and create your ideal results through accountability. After all, there’s no greater reward than taking your life back and achieving success on your terms. So go ahead, take the first step towards accountability, and watch as your life transforms for the better.

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