Life Lessons in Being Accountable
By default, being the oldest of seven children meant that I always had to be the “responsible one.” After Amber came along in ’88, there was no more me, myself and I but more them, us, ours, all together. I was accountable to my siblings, my parents, my family (which was huge; growing up it seemed like I was related to everybody), the church, and our community. I was the one who people came to when they had problems that they couldn’t solve on their own. I was there to bail people out of jail, help with homework, review resumes, and fill out financial aid forms. Don’t think for once that I’m complaining. I’m so grateful that people trust me in their most vulnerable moments. They know they can come to me and I will be there. They depend on me.
All this accountability has taught me a lot about myself and the people that I love. As with all life lessons, I share the key points with you here.
People rely on me because I show up for them. I’m present and I can be counted on to do what I say I’m going to do. As I get older I’m even more intentional about being in the company of people I care about and deliberately spending time with them. These days, this effort creates challenges as a flight home is upwards of $400+ but showing up for the people that I love is important.
BE HONEST ABOUT YOUR CAPACITY
Even when showing up, I am honest about my capacity. Yes, I can review your resume for your upcoming job interview, but I can’t get to it for a couple days. Yes, I can attend your birthday trip, but only if it stays within my budget. No, I can’t make it to your baby shower but I have a gift already picked out. Being honest helps me be even more accountable because people trust the truth. They don’t trust fluff or broken promises, but they do trust boundaries and reasonable expectations. Be honest with yourself and the people you love.
TEACH PEOPLE TO FISh
People come to me because they know I can help. But often I remind them that they can help themselves. Once the issue is resolved or once you’ve helped a person with the same situation a couple of times, let them know how they might resolve this themselves. Show them the resources that you used to help them and how they can access those themselves. Reminding them that they are smart, capable, and important (*insert Viola Davis gif here) is a sure way to reinforce your accountability and also their own.
TAKE A BREAK FROM HELPING
For accountable people this is a tough one, but it’s important to not always be the first one to offer help. Just because you know how to do something, doesn’t mean that everyone needs/wants/benefits from your help. Even if they would, maybe they would benefit more from doing it themselves or getting professional help. Highly accountable people often take on too much and instead, need to step back from helping (at least every once in a while).
These are the strategies I use to grow and develop my own accountability, but also how I protect myself from becoming overwhelmed and ineffective. Do you consider yourself an accountable person? Do these strategies resonate with you?