By Ruth Soukup
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
I promise you there are people out there in the world who are your people—ones with whom you will feel a strong connection, ones with whom you can be real and authentic, ones who will push you to be better and who won’t be afraid to hold you accountable when you need it. There are people waiting for someone just like you to brighten and enrich their lives in the same way they will be able to brighten and enrich yours.
But you will have to find them.
It will probably mean stepping outside of the comfort zone of the people you already know and associate with in order to make new friends. It may mean reaching out to someone you don’t know well but who may be a person you’ve admired or looked up to from afar. It may mean trying new activities—perhaps taking a class, attending a conference, connecting in a Facebook group or an online forum, joining a book club or the Chamber of Commerce, or even finding a membership community such as Doing It Scared, which you can find at doitscared.com.
So what do you do once you’ve found your people? How do you deepen those relationships, create meaningful dialogue, and foster real accountability?
It starts by finding at least one trustworthy person who can provide the accountability and support you’re looking for and who is open to receiving that same sort of accountability and support in return. You may even want to create this sort of relationship with multiple people for different areas of your life. For instance, you may want someone to hold you accountable from a business standpoint, but you may also want accountability for losing weight, being a better parent, or deepening your spiritual life.
For example, in addition to my Truth Club (learn more about Truth Clubs in my new book Do It Scared), I have several other close friends who provide accountability in different ways. My friend Bonnie, whom I’ve known since our kids were in preschool together, meets me regularly for lunch to talk honestly about the challenges of running a business and being a mom. My friend Alysha, who has known me since sixth grade, is always able to bring a broader perspective to problems than anyone else can bring. My friend Edie is more of a spiritual mentor, someone who encourages me to think more deeply about my faith. Laura and Heather, friends and coworkers who are part of my executive team, challenge me at work almost daily.
Each of these relationships is precious to me, and each one brings accountability, albeit in very different ways. They are the relationships that keep me grounded and keep me on track, the friendships that challenge me to be better and push me in the direction I want to go.
But accountability partnerships don’t have to be limited to one-on-one relationships. You can also join or create your own accountability group, such as a business mastermind, exercise group, writing club, or Bible study. Accountability groups tend to be a little more formal, and they can be a great way to foster additional individual relationships with growth-minded people.
Just keep in mind that the key to creating any accountability partnership—whether it’s a single person or a group—is finding people who are just as committed to the idea as you are, people who operate from a growth mind-set and genuinely want to see the same type of change and transformation happen in their own lives that you are looking to create in yours.
Here are some more tips for fostering true accountability in your relationships.
Dare to Be Vulnerable
Accountability doesn’t work if you’re on the defensive or if you’re trying to present a polished version of yourself that doesn’t accurately represent what you’re feeling inside. And while that may still be the armor you present to the world at large, that shield needs to come down with the people you trust to hold you accountable.
Keep in mind too that it’s especially easy to get defensive or to want to protect yourself or hide behind your mask when you’re feeling stressed out or emotional or exhausted. Those are the times when accountability will feel the scariest, because even the gentlest feedback can feel like harsh criticism.
Good accountability partners will be able to see, at least eventually, when you are putting up that armor or hiding behind your normal defenses. Then they will encourage you to push past that instinct and get to the heart of the matter.
Set Some Ground Rules
Not every accountability partnership needs to be formalized, but it’s not a bad idea to establish some ground rules to make sure everyone is on the same page and comfortable with pushing back or with being pushed.
Ground rules for your Truth Club may include maintaining confidentiality (which should go without saying, but sometimes it does need to be said), as well as guidelines for when it’s okay to give feedback and when it’s time to just listen. Your ground rules may also include words or phrases to avoid, or perhaps even preferred methods of communication.
Get Clear about Your Goals
It’s hard to provide accountability if there aren’t any goals or objectives to hold someone accountable to, so make sure the members of your Truth Club are very clear about sharing their goals and that you are diligent about keeping track of not only your own goals but your accountability partners’ goals as well.
This may mean restating your goals whenever you meet or perhaps posting them someplace, such as in a shared Google Doc, Dropbox folder, or even a text thread.
Be Intentional with Your Time
It’s easy to get off track, as well as to avoid tough conversations, so to make the most of your accountability time, be sure to set some intentions at the beginning. What do you most want to get out of your time together? What are you struggling with that you would like help thinking through? Where do you need to be pushed? Where do you need to be encouraged?
Asking these types of questions can help set the tone, strip away pretense, and open up the conversation.
Check in Regularly
For most of us, life can get pretty busy at times, and when things get crazy, it’s almost always our relationships that suffer. So how will you make this accountability partnership a priority? You may want to set up a recurring appointment in your schedule or make a point of checking in once a week or once a month—whatever feels right.
My friend Bonnie and I always set our next lunch date before we say good-bye, because we know that if we don’t, it will be months before it happens again. Likewise, with my Truth Club, we set a regular date and time for our monthly calls, and we schedule each of our three-day mastermind meetings several months in advance to make sure they’re blocked out in everyone’s schedule.
Ask Questions and Push Back
The most important part of accountability is being able and willing to ask thoughtful and probing questions and to push back when necessary. This may mean calling someone out when they act in a way that’s not in sync with their goals or beliefs. Or it may mean pushing someone forward when you see that their own limiting beliefs are holding them back.
This is where accountability can get uncomfortable, because it’s the place where we move out of our comfort zone into uncharted territory. And that’s a little scary, but it’s also the point. Because everyone needs true accountability.
So go form your Truth Club. Do what it takes to discover your tribe, and then surround yourself with the people who will make you better and inspire you to take action. It may just be the most important thing you ever do.
Adapted from Do It Scared: Finding the Courage to Face Your Fears, Overcome Adversity, and Create a Life You love by Ruth Soukup. Click here to learn more about this title.
What would you do if fear no longer stood in your way?
Courage doesn’t mean we are never afraid. True courage means taking action, despite the fear. True courage means doing it scared.
In Do It Scared, popular blogger and podcast host Ruth Soukup will help you to:
- Identify your own unique Fear Archetype™ — the specific type of fear that keeps you stuck — and learn how to conquer it.
- Dare to start thinking bigger about your life and your goals.
- Learn how to seek out honest feedback to accomplish big things.
- Embrace the core beliefs you need to overcome different types of fears.
- Discover why our magical idea of ‘balance’ is totally overrated and let go of the guilt, once and for all.
Equal parts inspiration and tough love, Do It Scared combines easy-to-implement tips with the motivation to start making real changes that lead to big results. Get ready to get off the sidelines and jump into your own life as you dare to Do It Scared.
Ruth Soukup is a New York Times bestselling author and is dedicated to helping people break through fear and create a life they love. Through her top-ranked Do It Scared® podcast and her popular blog, Living Well Spending Less, she provides easy-to-follow guidance for following your dreams and reaching your goals. She is also the founder of the Living Well Planner® and Elite Blog Academy®, as well as the author of five bestselling books. Her practical advice has been featured all over, including in Women’s Day, Entrepreneur, Family Circle and Fox News. She lives in Florida with her husband Chuck and two daughters, Maggie and Annie.