The Role of Accountability in Balance

AccountabilityFor over 20 years, running partners made sure I regularly completed the miles needed for my goals. In recent years, I meet with a Godly woman from church for Biblical accountability. In writing, accountability comes through my critique partner as well as through Godly people I interact with online. And of course, my spouse provides accountability like no other person in my life.

What is Accountability?

Being accountable means being responsible & answerable. Accountability means not simply acting according to feelings, wants and desires but basing actions on what we believe is honorable and truthful.

Accountability keeps us from hurting ourselves and others by making us liable, responsible and answerable for our actions or lack of action. Without accountability, the door remains open for saying and doing just about anything we want.

Accountability and Balance

Accountability to God and to other Christians exists as a Biblical principle (see Galatians 6:1-5, Luke 17:3, James 5:16, Romans 14:12 & Hebrews 4:13.) It also serves to strengthen us in ways we could not discover on our own.

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But how does accountability help specifically with balance?

Accountability provides a source of wisdom for the adjustments needed to maintain balance and keep from toppling over under the pressure and stress of our overloaded and drama-filled lives. Simply put, allowing accountability to function properly makes balance easier to maintain. When I neglect and/or ignore accountability, my life quickly becomes unstable.

Accountability helps maintain balance because it…

  1. Encourages us. (1 Thessalonians 5:11) Accountability helps us know what we’re doing right and gives direction for decisions. It also helps us know we’re not alone in our struggles.
  2. Improves us. (Proverbs 17:17) We need others to alert us to improvements as well as how to go about making them. Attempting to stay balanced alone just isn’t possible because we simply cannot accurately see everything about ourselves.
  3. Makes us think about our words. The Bible says we’ll be held accountable for every idle word we speak (Matthew 12:36-37). Accountability forces us to not only think about what we say but also about what influences exist at the heart of our words.
  4. Builds trust. (Luke 16:10-12) Letting Godly people speak into our lives exercises humbleness. It practices our willingness to open ourselves up to necessary change, and this stretches us in a way that allows for bigger responsibility as we gain a reputation for honesty and transparency.
  5. Realigns us when we mess up. (1 John 2:1-29 & James 5:16) We’re expected to mess up. That’s part of life this side of Heaven. So, the real test of solid character shows with how a person reacts after messing up. A willingness to be reshaped by the Godly wisdom of another goes a long way in getting back on track after making mistakes.

Establishing Accountability

Accountability only comes when we deliberately pursue it. This happens by being…

  • Open to it. This means not being defensive and instead being teachable. Accountability requires humbleness.
  • Transparent & honest. I need to share my weaknesses and struggles in order for another to truly be able to help me. The protective bubble surrounding my ego has to go.
  • Willing to receive it. Too many times, I’ve appeared open to accountability and then proceeded to ignore all wisdom coming my way. Be willing to apply and adjust using the wisdom gained through accountability.

Before I can be someone to whom another becomes accountable, I must make sure I am first willing to be accountable to another person. This in itself is another aspect of balance that accountability brings into a person’s life.

I wish I could say that I’ve always had this level of accountability in my life, but that would be a lie. Because I’ve been on the other end of the extreme, living a life completely absent of accountability, I can say with certainty that it is a necessity for maintaining a balanced life.

DISCUSSION: What role does accountability play in helping you maintain balance? If you’re out of balance, how can accountability help you find balance again?

Loren Pinilis at Life of a Steward offers additional insight into the topic of accountability in his recent post “The Key to Making Accountability Work.
Definitely worth taking the time to read!

Too Overwhelmed to Become Less Overwhelmed

So often, people fail to work on developing a time management and goal-setting system simply because they feel overwhelmed. They feel like they are so far off track and have too many changes needing made that they just don’t know where to start. As a result, they don’t start anywhere and simply maintain the same dysfunctional system that got them to their current state of frustration.

Where to Start3-14-13 Where to start

Often, the answer is to simply just start. Just take a step forward. Yet, too often, the weight of perfectionism, too many choices or both prevents even that first step. Sometimes, setting big goals and getting your life organized simply seems insurmountable. When you feel this way, start the process of change by focusing on small changes that added together will make a huge difference over time.

The following tips can help you to start this small change process.

  1. Consider the extremes. Ask yourself what’s working well and what’s not working at all. Then look for ways to tweak what’s already working and to change with what is absolutely not working. Don’t worry about what falls in between.
  2. Get and stay teachable. This point has far reaching implications. Being teachable, or having the willingness to always learn and grow, is essential to a productive life. Within the context of goal setting and time management, being teachable involves a willingness to try different things. It means knowing that you can tweak what works and toss what doesn’t.
  3. Stick with what works. Or, at least with what kind of works. Really, something has to be working at least partly, or you’d be dead. You’ve got to be doing at least one thing right. When you’re already overwhelmed, trying to change everything at once just makes matters worse. Some changes can wait.
  4. Take the plunge. This means diving in with a new approach or method and being willing to experience failures. It means taking chances and continuing to do so until you find what works. Failure can be the greatest teacher, but we never know what will or won’t work until we give it a shot.
  5. Struggle through. Life will never be free from struggle. Not giving in, not being apathetic or complacent, not settling… that’s where the value in continuing to struggle exists.

If you make no other commitment today, commit to making your life a process of small change. Some days may involve huge leaps, while others will simply be successful when you don’t go backwards. Simply committing to lifting up your foot and taking a step starts the process of change.

When to Start

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Some people struggle with starting something new until every condition is perfect. Experience tells me this results in never starting. So, the perfect time to start is right now. Just one small step forward. Something. Anything. In order for small things to add up over time to make a huge difference, you have to be doing some small things. Choose one and start right now!

A Final Note

Know that person who seems to have it all together? She’s organized, in shape, and eats healthy. Her kids and husband seem content. You want to be just like her, right? Well, first realize that rarely are things as they appear. Secondly, know that being like her is impossible simply because you’re not her.

In other words, be you. Figure out the systems and approaches that work for you. Yes, they’ll be a combination of the approaches of others, but no two people have the exact same system for managing time and reaching goals.

For more on this, check out my guest post entitled The Big Picture: My Own Life Plan Method and its sequel Living in the Details: My Daily Plan at Christian Faith at Work. Then, check out Chris Patton’s articles entitled 3 Keys to Creating New Habits and The Daily Game Plan: A Must Use Tool! Not only will these give you some very different perspectives on goal setting and time management, they’ll help you more fully understand how we truly are all unique in our approaches to life.

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How to… Be Yourself

Today’s post comes from the example set by my oldest son who is celebrating his 14th birthday today. Before I launch into a diatribe of how he can’t possibly be 14 because I can’t possibly be old enough to have a 14-year-old, let me just say, “Happy Birthday, Jonathan! I love you!”

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“Don’t feel stupid if you don’t like what everyone else pretends to love.” – Emma Watson

The quote above fits my son oh so well because one of Jonathan’s biggest strengths lies with his self-confidence. He knows how to stay true to himself. As I thought about why that is and how that is evidenced in his life, 7 qualities that describe Jonathan stood out.

  1. Loyal. Jonathan has a friend others seem to avoid, but my son will choose his friend over an invitation to join the “cool” kids. Why? “He’s my friend, and I like him.”
  2. Individual. Jonathan listens to movie soundtracks like Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean and other classical-style music. He doesn’t like the music most kids his age listen to.
  3. Simple. Jeans, t-shirt and tennis shoes. So much like his dad.
  4. Teachable. He asks for help with his homework as much as he does with the social challenges boys his age face. He gathers input, makes a decision, and then commits to that decision fully.
  5. Diligent. Jonathan sets goals and does what’s necessary to reach them. He needs little supervision.
  6. Honest. Jonathan has always had a very guilty conscience, even as a toddler. He owns up to his mistakes quickly and is honest with his thoughts and opinions. While he is still learning how to better mitigate those responses, his honesty is certainly refreshing.
  7. Humorous. He doesn’t try to be funny. He does sort of “collect” humor from what he reads and watches, and then he makes it his own. Jonathan just says or does what he finds humorous, and he ends up being hilarious.

These 7 qualities not only illustrate how my son Jonathan stays true to who he is, they also offer valuable insight into how each one of us can learn to truly be our unique selves too. At least, he has certainly taught me that lesson in my own life over and over again during these past 14 years.

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God has gifted me with such an amazing son, and I look forward to learning more from Jonathan in the future!

DISCUSSION: What qualities in Jonathan do you want to cultivate in your own life? How do you plan to do this?

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How to… Be Coachable

Tonight when you watch the Olympics, take a few minutes to observe the coaches. They watch with intensity. They cheer. They instruct. They console. They correct. Their emotional intensity rivals that of the athletes themselves.

Coaches see the big picture. They see what the athletes themselves don’t always see. They break down what needs done and how it needs done into small, manageable steps that will add up for big change over time if done consistently.

Yet, nothing a coach does matters if the athlete fails to open himself to being taught. Being coachable can make a talented athlete great. Being teachable can make an average athlete approach greatness too. Even an initially poor athlete can become good and maybe even great if he is coachable.

What does a coachable athlete look like? What attributes does he possess?

Certainly, a coachable athlete must trust his coach, he must be willing to change and try new things, and he must be have the ability to listen. In addition to these essential elements, a coachable athlete must also possess the following three qualities:

  1. Passion for practicing the basics. Even professional athletes still practice the basics regularly. The basics provide the foundation for greatness in any sport, a foundation on which a coach then builds a great athlete.
  2. Willingness to submit without always understanding why. A coach studies and plans, sees the big picture and usually has more experience than the athlete. For these reasons, an athlete must often submit to a coach’s leadership without at least initially understanding the reasoning.
  3. Humbleness for following directions/instructions without question. Especially during competition, an athlete needs to carry out the coach’s game plan and not question his every decision. Humbleness is necessary to let go of one’s own will and submit to another’s will.

These same attributes or qualities seen in a coachable athlete are also visible in a teachable Christian who, like David, pursues the heart of God.

  1. Passion for practicing the basics means being merciful, kind, humble and gentle. The basics also include forgiveness, love and thankfulness. A passion for the basics also includes living out the words of scripture as well as participating in regular fellowship and worship.  (Colossians 3:12-17)
  2. Willingness to submit to Christ means loving Him above all else and following Him wholeheartedly, regardless of the cost. (Luke 14:25-35)
  3. Humbleness that allows us to let go of our own will and desires and following Christ’s. Doing so means admitting our dependence upon Him. (James 5:7-10)

Being a successful athlete as well as being a Christian who pursues the heart of God takes hard work and perseverance. It takes honing specific qualities and habits even when they seem boring or hard to understand. It means following the instruction of those with more experience and who better understand the bigger picture. Being a successful athlete pursuing Olympic gold or a Christian pursuing the heart of God requires being coachable. Are you coachable?

Related “Olympic” Posts:

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How to… Be Accountable

So far in my Christian life, I have been influenced tremendously by both the law (what I should and should not do, obeying the rules) and my own nature (the desires of the flesh). As Kathy Howard says in The Proper Climate – “Fruit of the Spirit” Lesson 1, “freedom cannot be found in observing the Law. And indulging our sinful nature will never produce the righteous life God desires.” Instead, true freedom is found as we “live according to… life in the Holy Spirit” (Galatians 5:16). (For a terrific study on living in the Holy Spirit and specifically on the fruit of the Spirit, please check out the wonderful Summer Bible study by Kathy Howard titled Fruit of the Spirit: Plant Grow & Cultivate.)

Recently, a friend and I have been pushing each other to focus more on walking in and living life as directed by the Holy Spirit. We are challenging each other tremendously in this area. Had we not been, I am not sure Kathy’s Fruit of the Spirit study would have caught my attention. Why? Having an accountability partner, something I longed for my whole adult life but couldn’t find, has played a large role in tuning my spirit to help me be more in tuned to the Holy Spirit.

Informally, this type of accountability can happen when a body of believers comes together regularly in worship and small group study. It can also happen when a group of runners gather every Saturday morning for their “long runs.” In a more formal sense, the idea of an accountability partner provides a unique way to be encouraged on a more intimate level. Whether formal or informal and whatever the focus and purpose, the benefits of accountability increase when individuals are…

  1. Meeting regularly. My accountability partner and I meet for discussion about every other week, and we see each other at church on Sundays. Face-to-face connections provide the glue for relationships. Hebrews 10:25 warns against stopping this habit and connects it with the idea of accountability.
  2. Connecting often. In our busy culture, meeting face-to-face regularly can be a struggle. Fortunately, that same culture gives a multitude of ways to connect in between face-to-face meetings. Blogs, email, Facebook, and Twitter provide unique ways to connect with others. The truth that No Man Is An Island holds true more today than ever.
  3. Teachable. When I taught college English classes years ago, most students wanted to learn at least to some extent. But a few students wanted to get a passing grade without learning. This isn’t possible in college, and it’s not possible in life either. In order to move toward excellence, one must be willing to learn from others. (Proverbs 23:12)
  4. Transparent. This does not necessarily mean airing one’s dirty laundry, but it does mean an honesty that gives room for true accountability. I have been in what I thought was an accountability relationship where the other person was not teachable or completely transparent, and I discovered that not only was I wasting my time but “casting pearls to swine” too (Matthew 7:6).
  5. Prepared. Just like taking a test without having studied is unwise, so too is expecting accountability to take place when you’ve made no effort to make progress. To prepare for the time with my accountability partner, we both make notes about what the Holy Spirit lays on our hearts, and we come ready to discuss those. There are many ways to prepare for accountability, and the specifics really depend on the unique reasons behind the partnership.

Without question, God encourages the idea of accountability. Hebrews 10:24 says to “think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds.” Whether formally or informally, having people we can encourage and be encouraged by goes a long way in helping us to “hold tightly to the hope we say we have” as well as to “encourage and warn each other, especially now as they day of his coming back again is drawing near” (Hebrews 10:23, 25).

DISCUSSION: What other elements need to exist in accountability relationships?

Related Posts:

How to… Be Encouraging Just By Being You

Sunday Reflections… No Man is an Island

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