Have you ever thought about doing something and then never got close to actually doing it? Have you ever written something down as a goal or task and then not seen it through? I know I am among the many who can freely admit “Yes” to both of those questions. Sometimes I talk myself out of executing the task/goal, other times I have merely forgotten to follow through, while on other occasions higher priority goals/objectives/tasks trumped my original thought. I have found over the years that the goals that I realize are usually those I share with others, thereby creating a sense of public accountability, real or perceived. In fact, this blog is a form of accountability for me. How can I feel good about sharing my thoughts in the virtual world, only to contradict them in the physical world? I can’t. I must walk the walk even if I am the only one looking.

Last night, my wife and I were talking about this very subject as she was helping me to evaluate certain situations. Why is it so many people go through the motions of writing down resolutions at the beginning of each year, never to make meaningful progress toward them? Why do so many of us tell a friend about our dreams and aspirations only to allow the daily grind to hijack them? There are only two reasons. Either we had no intention of following through or we lack commitment to what we thought we wanted to achieve. If we had purposeful intention and were truly committed to the goals we set, we’d make persistent progress toward them on a daily, weekly, monthly, or annual basis.

I was reminded just last week of the most important tool we have in our commitment toolbox…public accountability. The reminder may seem juvenile to some, but it worked. I have a lifelong friend (we met in kindergarten) who has been going through some challenges of late and he confided to a few of us that this was going to be his year. He declared it “The Year of The B_____”, where “B” is in reference to his name…(TYOB). He developed a campaign plan that would guide his progress and one of his lines of effort was that of physical fitness. Struggling to make time for his fitness, he decided that he needed to leverage the power of public accountability. Using social media as a platform to share his intentions, he declared his fitness objective, made it known that “The Heritage Brothers Accountability Program” was in full effect (i.e. my brother and I became co-owners of his objective and had full license to do whatever it took to keep him on task), and committed to a specific, unpalatable “stick” that would serve as punishment for not following through.

Looking back on the goals I have personally realized with the help of others, as well as the successes I have seen others achieve, most of them started with a public announcement of intentions.  Over the last few months, I have seen two proteges become Commissioned Officers, a friend grow his charity at an amazing rate, two NIOC Pensacola Alums (my last command) be named Sailors of the Quarter shortly after arriving at their new command, my son make significant progress in his music, athletic, and academic endeavors, and a long time friend elegantly expand her writing into video and audio mediums. In each case, the process of reaching these goals began with a public statement of intention that in turn created a sense of accountability.

I am certain that we can all point toward examples of people (i.e. politicians) publicly stating their intentions, only to not follow through “as promised” despite widespread public accountability. In my opinion, there are two reasons why we fail to follow through as advertised. First, our personal integrity may be lacking. “My word is my bond” may not be as binding in the minds of each. We might like the perceptions of ourselves we shape in the minds of others by stating such lofty intentions in which we don’t completely believe. I know how nice it feels to tell family, friends, and Shipmates the things we intend to do, but do we truly intend to do them? For those of us who do, we know how much better it feels to personally acknowledge that we did, in fact, do what we stated. Secondly, and more often than not, it is a lack of commitment. We may have every intention of following through and we may even make some progress, but our interest quickly wanes, or things become “too hard” and we begin chasing other squirrels. Whether it is the former or the latter, not following through erodes trust and confidence in those who know of our stated intentions. To me, that is the primary reason many don’t publicly share their goals. They are not truly committed and therefore expect to fail. Coincidentally, it is the very reason those of us who are truly committed to achievement choose to enlist the help that public accountability provides. Being a man of integrity and strong commitment, my buddy will achieve his fitness goal and anything else he says he intends to do.

At work, I see men and women of great integrity and commitment enlist the power of public accountability only to have the team fall short at times. The difference here is that the goals to which we publicly commit lack individual ownership. When we have “We Goals” (i.e. team-oriented), we need to go out of our way to build a sense of shared ownership, coupled with the accountability that assigning individual responsibility provides. It makes little sense to state a lofty goal without committing to a due date and an individual to lead the effort.

In addition to being specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART),  goals require accountability, commitment, and ownership.

  • How are you holding yourself accountable?
  • How are you demonstrating personal commitment?
  • How are you taking ownership?

As we enter the fifth month of 2013, how are those New Year’s Resolutions progressing?  I am still tracking on mine and appreciate those of you who continue to hold me publicly accountable. If our actions don’t support our words, our words are better left unsaid.