How to Hold Yourself Accountable
Episode #3 of the course The fundamentals of self-discipline by Martin Meadows.
In the third lesson of the course, we’ll talk about the power of accountability. Since the last two lessons consisted of a lot of information, today’s email will be brief and centered around one key idea.
When there’s nobody to hold you responsible, it’s tempting to cut corners or give up on your goals. If you want to become more self-disciplined, it’s crucial to make the consequences of giving up as painful as possible. This type of negative extrinsic motivation can be a valuable ally in addition to intrinsic and prosocial motivators, which, while powerful, can sometimes fail.
How do you make it difficult to give up? Think of a painful punishment and find a tool or person to deliver it in case you lose your resolve. Usually the best choice is a close friend who’ll keep their promise, as painful as it would be for you, knowing it’s for your own good.
For instance, I know a person who used to motivate himself to work by giving checks to his friend and telling him to cash them if he didn’t complete specific tasks by the end of the deadline. When he failed, it wasn’t only a loss of the reward he could otherwise get, but also a financial punishment for procrastination. He quickly trained himself not to postpone work.
If you want to go on a diet but you’re afraid you’ll cheat, pay your friend fifty dollars each time you choose a cake over a healthy meal. I’m sure that no matter how much you love pastries, paying fifty bucks for the pleasure of eating them will quickly teach you to avoid the bakery. It requires honesty on your part to tell your friend when you slip up, but if you lie, you’re only cheating yourself out of becoming a healthier person.
A highly effective way to hold yourself accountable is to hire a coach. You’ll not only benefit from financial stakes—after all, you’re paying them money to help you change—but also from additional social pressure. If you have to send your coach regular reports on your progress, you’ll think twice before cheating or being lazy. Please note you can hire a coach for pretty much anything you want to achieve; there are not only fitness coaches, but also languages coaches, business coaches, life coaches, and so on.
The key takeaway to remember from this lesson is that the higher the stakes, the more painful it will be to give up—and that’s precisely what will help you keep going.
Tomorrow, we’ll talk about keystone habits. You’ll learn what they are and how simple it can be to dramatically improve your life and develop more self-discipline.
“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change” by Stephen R. Covey
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