Reality Check: “Good Thing” Accountability

Accountability. We know it’s good for us. Yet, it sounds kind of naggy and judgey. Like, “You said you’d do this and now I’m holding you accountable. So ‘fess up; did you do what you said you would do?”
It’s not that accountability is bad. Having an accountability buddy—a friend who’ll remind us of our commitment—is helpful. If we want to exercise regularly, spend time studying or call mom every day, we’re more likely to follow through when we know we’ll need to account for what we’ve done or not done.
If you ever want to brighten your perspective, Shawn Achor’s TED talk, “The Happy Secret to Better Work,” suggests this simple activity—at the end of each day, write down three good things from your day.
Even when the day seems horrible, this ritual reminds us that there is good mixed among the bad. Car didn’t start? Bad. Friend gave you a lift? Good. You could say they cancel each other out, but I’d suggest you record only the good bit. It’s not too likely that you’ll forget the bad and be misled into thinking that everything is peachy.
This is simple, cheap, and once you’ve done it for a while, it can make a positive difference in your outlook. You start looking for good things, rather than letting yourself be led into seeing only the bad news, disappointments, and fears which seem to overwhelm us if we don’t counter with something positive.
However, I’ve learned that writing doesn’t come naturally for everyone. Shocking! If writing isn’t doable for you, then here’s a suggestion with the same benefit. It might even make accountability enjoyable!
Think of someone with whom you have regular contact, whether phone, text, email, or visit. In the evening, ask your friend to tell you one good thing that happened in their day. You do the same—one good thing that happened for you. It doesn’t need to be a big thing. Just a good thing. It could be seeing a baby animal, sharing a meal, maybe your knees didn’t hurt all day! Those are all good things and worthy of note.
If you make this a habit, you’ll learn more about your friend and what they consider good things (it’s not the same for everyone.) And you’ll pay more attention to the good things in your life, not just the bad things, of which there are plenty and will always be. You might even start looking forward to this accountability with your “good thing” buddy.
This habit helps you take charge of your perspective, which is part of taking charge of your life. What you look for and concentrate on makes a difference in how you perceive that your life is going.
One word of caution: Don’t turn it into a contest by trying to outdo your friend’s good thing with your own better thing. Comparing our lives is generally counterproductive.
Choose someone you like and trust, who is willing to look for and share the good things in their life with you.
Why not give it a try? You may be surprised what you learn—about yourself, about your accountability buddy, and about the good things that you might otherwise not even notice.

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