I help to run a weight management class at UNH through the Center for Health Enhancement. My role is more of overseeing students, but also to impart them with the counseling experience that I have gained through the years.
One of the topics I plan to discuss, with not only the students but with the clients of CHE, is what I am calling "Positive Accountability".
This concept is not new, but I thought that by putting it into my blog, it would give me a chance to not only practice what points I would like to make to the students, but also give others the benefit of this concept.
When we decide to change something about ourselves-whether its to lose weight, begin to eat better, or to exercise, the first rule is that to be successful, we need to make the changes in our lives for us, NOT because someone else thinks we should-whether it be a spouse, loved one, or even our physicians. We need to decide to make the change for us.
That being said, some people need more than just internal motivation to get to the gym or to cut back on sweets. Some of us thrive on being held accountable to others. In my opinion, there are two types of accountability. First, there is negative accountability. This is when the people around us, in order to "support" our efforts, decide it is their role to police our behaviors. Its the spouse that thinks saying "should you be eating that?" is a way of being helpful. This negative accountability is not something that is helpful. It makes us feel bad about ourselves and our action, and potentially can cause us to fail at our efforts.
Positive accountability is when we are accountable to others, no matter if we succeed or fail. Its being able to share our successes with others and receive praise AND being able to share our failure and have positive encouragement not to give up.
For those of us that need this positive accountability, how can we achieve this? First, many of us do these things already, but don't realize it. Social media is a great way to start. If you are on Facebook or Twitter, start by telling people what you are doing. If you are trying to get on a workout regimen, tell people this. Post when you do finish a workout and feel great-but also post when you don't want to go. You may not have the internal motivation to get to the gym, but the encouragement of other may be the push that you need. It makes you feel accountable to others, as though others are "counting" on you to meet your goals!
Another thought is to sign up for an event, such as a bike race or a 5K. Not only are you accountable to other (by telling them you are going to do this), you are also adding an element of fiscal responsibility. Money can rank up there as a high motivator.
Another way is through the use of a blog. My sister-in-law, Erin, has been so successful at not only losing weight and exercising but blog writing as well!
(www.cormarama-is-losing-it-too.blogspot.com) When I asked her if she felt her blog was integral to her weight loss , she felt it was a huge part of her success. Not only is it a way for her to be accountable to others, its also a way for friends, family and loved ones to be up-to-date on the happening in her life. She is someone who needs the positive encouragement and reinforcement to be successful-and it has worked!
I know this accountability is not for everyone, and I respect that. And I know that some people feel the use of twitter, facebook and blogs has turned us into a society of self-absorbed, egomaniacs. These are the people who cannot relate to the positive accountability concept. And most of us don't need their "support" anyway!
So go ahead-tell everyone you know what positive changes you are trying to make in your life-you'll be surprised at the positive encouragement you will receive!