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  • Writer's pictureBritt Leigh

Building Internal Accountability

When I took The Four Tendencies Quiz, I confirmed what I largely knew to be true – I am able to stay accountable to others and their expectations, but I struggle to remain accountable to myself. In the book Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin suggests that external accountability is key to my success. And while that holds some truth, I was curious to find strategies that allowed more room for internal accountability.

Accountability to Future Self

As someone who finds it easier to hold myself accountable to others, I found the suggestion of holding myself accountable to my future self intriguing. It begs the question: Is what I’m doing now making my future self happy? While this might not be foolproof, it’s a solid way to check your progress.


Another strategy I found compelling was to find more unique ways to challenge yourself. This is especially beneficial if you find that you are a competitive person, which I happen to be. For example, you might consider challenging yourself to see how many days in a row you can write 500 words. Or, you might tell yourself that instead of writing a chapter a day, you’re going to write ten chapters per week. Slightly larger goals can bolster motivation by encouraging internal competition and excitement. Just think, if you write ten chapters per week (at approximately 1000 words per chapter), you could have a full-length novel written in just six weeks. That’s exciting!

Rewards and ‘Punishments’

As discussed in a previous post, SMART goals can be particularly useful for internal motivation. Setting these goals, developing milestones, and tracking progress help build habits that drive accountability. Adding a reward system to these strategies is another way to ensure accountability. Warm baths, reading a favorite book, binge-watching some Netflix (might I suggest Bridgerton?). None of these cost much money and could provide the spark you need to complete a task. That is provided you are the kind of person who doesn’t give into these desires before your tasks are completed. If you are, I recommend establishing higher stakes. Some researchers have recommended putting money against your goals as it significantly increases the likelihood of goal accomplishment. You can do this by handing money to a trusted friend with the promise of completing your writing goals. If you don’t complete them, your friend would either keep or donate the money.

Intention Setting vs. Intention Follow-through

Everyone has a talent for intention setting, but it’s the intention follow-through that trips many of us up. To overcome this, we must make the follow-through as easy as possible. If you want to read every night before you go to bed, put your book on your pillow as a reminder. If you want to write any memories from last night’s dreams, set a journal and a pen on your nightstand. Setting the intention and staging the environment for completion should make follow-through easier. Of course, setting daily goals and avoiding overload are also key ways to stay motivated and accountable to your goals.

As you build your accountability system, consider trying out a few of the strategies outlined here. Not all of them will work for each person, but the ones that do should be added to your toolbox.

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