The Accounting of Discipline

Lance Accountability, Discipline Leave a Comment

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It has now been a solid 7 weeks since my last day of work in Corporate America. With the distraction of the holidays behind me and the kids now back in school, I’m left to face a stark realization: without the external expectations of others, I’m an unproductive mess.

Now, this lack of doing things on my part is not due to have a lack of things to do. While attending this year’s TEDxDayton event working as a speaker’s mentor, I was hit with a moment of inspiration: an idea for a book to write. Less than a week later, by virtue of getting laid off, I was given the gift of a period of paid time off with which to focus on doing just that — writing said book. Simple, right? Big stuff happens when we have a great idea and the opportunity to do something about it, right?

Right??

Yeah, no.

An idea and opportunity I now have. It’s the “doing” that requires sustained effort, focus, and perseverance. In other words: discipline. It has been humbling to see just how little of that precious resource I actually have when stripped of the outside structures of a boss, colleagues, deadlines, and meetings. The only thing standing between me and completely unproductive failure is …me. Of course, that’s also the only thing standing between me and the disciplined effort that leads to a successful execution. So, if acknowledging my weakness is the first step on the path towards recovery, what next to do?

Get accountable.

As accountability author Sam Silverstein succinctly puts it:

You are responsible for things. You are accountable to people.

Thankfully, I have friends who are willing to step into the accountability void. Recently a pair of them asked me how my writing was coming. I could’ve avoided the discomfort and returned conversational serve with the tried and true “Good. It’s hard but coming along.” Or, I could have admitted to a lack of progress but deflected responsibility by throwing out the reasonable excuses of the holiday business between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Instead, I took a page from Brené Brown’s book and stepped into the vulnerability. I answered by admitting that progress was almost non-existent because without the external expectations of others to answer to, I’m an undisciplined mess.

What came next in response was both an invitation and a dare to be accountable:

“How about you email us every day with whether you hit your day’s word count goal or not?”

With my mouth I said “okay, thanks. I will do that.” … but inside my head, I was like —

That conversation was exactly one week ago. In the time since, I hit and exceeded my goal every day (with the exception of the weekend, when I devoted that work time to another project), and doubled the progress I had made up to that point.

THAT is the power of being accountable to other people.

What are you trying to accomplish in your life that could use the boost of productive output that comes with being accountable to someone else? It could be professional or personal, large or small. It’s January 10th — chances are, any New Year’s resolution you made is already at the shallow breathing stage of its death cycle. You can breathe new life into that commitment if you take the bold step of sharing it with someone in an uncomfortably vulnerable way, and making yourself accountable to them to simply report on how you measured up to your goal each day.

I could say more on this topic. In fact, when I started this post, I intended to. But, none of these 600-plus words will count towards my daily writing goal, so I’ve got to end this post here and get to work. I have an accountability email to send out later today.