Make Yourself Accountable

Back in September, I said I was going to try and do something outside of my comfort zone once a week and write about it. I hoped that by making this commitment online, and promising to share my experiences, this would be enough to motivate me to try challenges I’d back away from otherwise. And whilst it certainly has pushed me to do more of these things, it hasn’t quite done so as much as I’d hoped, yet. It turns out that my incentives not to do really uncomfortable things are just really strong - and the incentives I’d tried to build in the opposite direction weren’t strong enough to combat this.

I realised what I really needed was someone holding me personally accountable. There’s a huge difference between vaguely writing on the internet that you plan to do something, and committing to a specific individual to do a specific thing at a certain time, and having them check up on you that you did it. The second is just vastly more motivating, because there are actual consequences if you fail to do the thing you said you would.

So I’ve started asking friends to hold me accountable for doing specific challenges I want to do, and so far it’s definitely increased my motivation. Things I’ve promised so far including asking weird or stupid questions in shops, and eating out alone, which I’ll be writing about in the coming weeks.

I’ve also realised that involving other people in my challenges has more benefits than increasing my motivation. First, it’s allowed me to start discussing what makes me uncomfortable, and brainstorming ideas for challenges with other people - which is both fun and incredibly useful. I’ve been surprised at how difficult it is to figure out exactly what things make me uncomfortable and why, and how to design appropriate challenges - bouncing ideas around with other people about this really helps.

Second, I’ve also started trying out doing some joint challenges - where I not only commit to someone else, but we in fact commit to one another to do something we both find uncomfortable. This is really great because (a) I’m encouraging my friends to face the things they find uncomfortable, too - so two people benefit rather than one, and (b) we can then share our experiences with one another and find out more about what makes different people uncomfortable. If I want to really understand the limitations of staying within our comfort zones, it seems really useful to collect data on other peoples’ experiences, not just my own!

I’m also now beeminding the number of blog posts I write as an added commitment device - at the moment this means I have to write a post every other week or I lose money. (For those who don’t know beeminder, it’s an awesome website that allows you to track your progress towards a goal visually whilst also motivating you by charging you money if you go off track - highly recommend it!). If this isn’t enough to motivate me, another option would be to start committing larger sums of money to individuals - last week I almost ended up paying my boyfriend £100 for failing a challenge...

Want to help or join me? If you’re reading this and you either:

1. Have a challenge you think would be good for me to do, you’d like to hear about me doing, and can hold me accountable to actually doing, or

2. Have a challenge you would like to do yourself, but struggle to motivate yourself to do, and would like to do together, us holding one another accountable,

then please get in touch!