Being Accountable To Another - How To Achieve A Goal
Well, it is the time of year when many people will make resolutions and set goals for what they hope to accomplish over the course of the next year or perhaps over an even longer period of time. It would be interesting to know how many of these resolutions and goals are actually achieved. There are all sorts of recommendations concerning the setting and achievement of goals. Many people have been trained through their employment on the principles of goal setting and goal achievement. However, for many of us, learning about how real people actually manage to attain their goals is often more enlightening.
I recently achieved a goal that was formulated fourteen years ago in 1997. It basically took me two years to actually achieve the goal (2010-2011). For the first twelve years I had the same goal that I had the last two years. Why was I able to obtain the goal during the last two years? Why was I not able to attain it sometime during the first twelve years?
Here's my story and what worked for me.
I graduated from college in 1982. By 1984, I was married and had a child. I could not afford at that time to put myself through graduate school. However, I was fortunate enough to go to work for an employer in 1995 that provided tuition assistance. So, from 1995 to 1997, I was able to go back to school and get my MBA and I was also able to pass the coursework for a professional designation in the insurance industry. That particular designation was the AIC (Associate in Claims) designation. Having that under my belt, I decided that I wanted to get my CPCU (Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriter) designation. The first twelve years of that endeavor was just painful. I am still not sure why getting started on that designation was so hard. I mean I attended graduate school, attained the AIC designation, was a wife and a mother, and I worked full-time! When I decided that I wanted to go after the CPCU designation, I was no longer in graduate school and my children were much older! So, why was it so hard?
Honestly, I cannot answer that question to this day. But, I can tell you what finally worked for me. I told somebody I had this goal. It just seemed that once somebody knew about it, I became accountable to that person. I had given my word. It had to get done. Maybe it was the person that I told. She was a coach - a professional development coach. My employer hired a group of coaches to work with employees that were participating in a leadership development program that I was part of. In one of our very first sessions, this particular goal came up. She helped me develop a plan for achieving the goal. She had me write the goal and the plan down. We set a timeline for when I would take the exams required for the designation. Suddenly, I was accountable to her and it was all writtten down! Don't misunderstand the program or my relationship with my coach. What we discussed was confidential. I would not get fired if I did not achieve the goal. In fact, I am not even sure that my employer knew I had this goal. All I can tell you is that once it was on paper and timelines/deadlines were in place, I had to achieve the goal because I TOLD SOMEONE ELSE I WOULD! I don't know what I was thinking when I agreed to the goal, the plan, and the schedule! But, guess what? IT WORKED!!!
In about two years time, I studied all of the coursework independently and took the eight exams and was done! Now I look back and can't believe that it basically took me twelve years to just get started because once I did start, it became incredibly easy. I think there are a number of things that we often dread doing but if we only just make ourselves start, we find out that they are not that dreadful after all. You just have to make yourself get started and for me the way to do that was to tell somebody else. By doing so, I made myself accountable to them because I did not want to go back on my word!
My suggestion would be that for some people, this might be a way to get started on a goal and to actually achieve the goal. Make sure though, that the person you choose to tell your goal to is someone that you will hold yourself accountable to. Also and probably most importantly, make sure that when you tell them your goal and you write it down and set dates and make plans, that you keep your word!