When Monique Hayward opened Dessert Noir Café & Bar in Beaverton, Oregon, three years ago, the newly christened entrepreneur says she felt a sense of freedom at not having to answer to anyone. “There was no one forcing me to keep this restaurant open,” says Hayward, who enjoyed the autonomy. But when she overheard an employee’s phone conversation shortly after launching the business, she realized she needed to retool her thinking.
“[My employee] was discussing a loan for a car,” recalls the 38-year-old entrepreneur. “And I’m like, ‘These people are making life decisions based upon the future of my business.’ I realized then that this was serious. What I do can ultimately affect others.” The incident led Hayward to consider her personal accountability—successfully following through on one’s intentions.
“If you’ve got certain results you want to accomplish in your life or business and you’re consistently not meeting those results, then that’s usually a sign you have a problem with accountability,” says Thornton Prayer, founder of Whole Life Coaching in Walnut Creek, California.
For Hayward, it was easier to motivate herself to be accountable for her actions if she remembered the bigger picture and all of the people her dream ultimately affected.
“Any goal is bigger than the person trying to get it off the ground,” she says.
There are other ways to push yourself to follow through with your plans and hold yourself responsible:
Write down specific goals. Prayer subscribes to the SMART system—making sure goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and
Time-based. It’s not enough to say you want more business or to make more money, he says. Instead, designate the number of clients you want, the amount of income you desire, and when you expect to have it. “Be very clear about what’s important to you,” adds Prayer.
Assess progress regularly. Once you know when you expect your goal to be accomplished, you can see whether you’re in fact moving toward success. Determine how often you will measure your progress—whether it is weekly, monthly, or quarterly—and how well you’ve adhered to your goals. You’ll see sooner rather than later if you’re on or off track.
Bring others onboard. Even if you don’t have people directly affected by your ability to follow through on your goals as Hayward does, consider giving others a stake in your success. Accountability partners can check in on you to make sure you remain on target. “Some people know they would never exercise without that partner who works out with them at the gym,” Prayer says. If you need a push to get going, enlist someone you trust to provide that motivation.
Seek professional help. If you’ve tried over and over again to reach certain
goals but always fall short, there could be a deeper problem. A psychologist or coach can help you uncover personal blocks and move beyond them. “Some people are afraid of success, failure, making mistakes, or looking bad,” Prayer says. Once they realize what fears have been holding them back, “they can make more conscious decisions and start getting the