Nutritional Freedom is so many things to our clients. We’re their sounding board, cheerleaders, educators, and community. But for many, the most important role we play is accountability partner.
Cultivating a strong sense of accountability is such an important piece of the health puzzle. Accountability is about delivering on a commitment and fulfilling expectations. Whether those expectations are inner or outer expectations has a profound impact on if/how well you’ll meet them. It also factors into the type of accountability (internal or external) that will help you cross the finish line.
Internal accountability occurs when you make good on a promise to yourself. This accountability is fueled by your commitment to your own values. It comes from the inside out. If you do well with personal goals or making good on New Year’s Resolutions, then you probably have a strong sense of internal accountability.
External accountability comes from the outside in. It’s fueled by the expectations others have for us. If you’re never one to miss a deadline from your boss, or you do better with workout classes than solo gym sessions, chances are you flourish with external accountability.
Gretchen Rubin explores people’s relationships to expectations and accountability in her book, The Four Tendencies. She outlines four general categories that people fall into:
None of these tendencies is better or worse than any other. They all have major advantages and they all have pitfalls. The most important thing is that you know your tendency and make it work for rather than against you.
Most of our clients are Obligers, which isn’t terribly surprising when you consider a) the work we do and b) the fact that this is the most common of the Four Tendencies overall. Obligers do extremely well with outer expectations and accountability, which we provide as a coaching team.
On the other hand, Obligers often struggle because they tend to neglect their inner expectations, which leaves them feeling frustrated or even like failures. Obligers really thrive as clients. They’re open to guidance, feedback, education, and support. Basically, they’re super coachable.
One part of our coaching practice is helping our clients hack accountability so they can make good on the promises they make to themselves and ultimately create the life they want. We start by helping our clients get clear on their values, and then create monthly goals based on those values. This is where we stoke the flames of internal accountability.
(A quick note. We could simply start this process by handing out meal plans and workout guides and checking in on our clients to make sure they do the things. That’s what you get with a lot of health coaching programs. But focusing solely on external expectations and accountability won’t necessarily help our clients grow so that they can lead a value-driven life.)
Anyway, once we know what our clients want their lives to be about (values) and the action items (goals) to get them there, we bring in elements of external accountability to fan those flames of internal accountability. Of course, part of this responsibility falls on us as their accountability partner. We check in, cheer them on, and provide tough love if/when someone’s not holding themselves to the high standard that they deserve.
But we also encourage our clients to take responsibility in this process too. We do this by helping them create their own external accountability solutions. This could mean daily journaling, including specific action items to support the achievement of their goals. It could mean saying those goals “out loud” on social media. It could mean messaging another client in the community, asking her if she wants to be an accountability buddy. It could mean setting phone alarms that signify when it’s time to start winding down for the evening. There is no one form of external accountability that works best. It’s all exploration and experimentation.
Now here’s your homework:
Think about how you react to inner and outer expectations. You can also take this quiz from Gretchen Rubin to discover your Tendency. Remember, the important thing is that you know yourself first and then take action to set yourself up for success.
Develop your own sense of internal accountability by getting clear on your values and creating goals in line with those values (you can download that free worksheet here )!
Decide whether it’s best for you to do a DIY accountability hack, or apply now to NF: Foundations.