Let's take exercise as an example. This, for me, is an incredibly easy habit to break, even when I've been successfully doing it for months at a time. A change of season (whether of the year or of life), a change of schedule, even a minor interruption on a single day can derail my exercise goal completely. And in the passage of time that it would take to snap your fingers, I suddenly can't figure out how to get to the gym even though I'd been successfully going for months.
Part of why I think I'm easily discouraged on this one is my weight. I'm overweight and I know it. I work pretty hard not to make that a big focus of my life. I work to make healthy choices in what I eat and to exercise regularly. But I must admit that these seem to be small things when compared to the obstacle before me.
I have had a bunch of stuff that could easily set me back this year including back problems that I haven't had before. But having an accountability partner means that someone besides me sees how hard I am trying. She sees how much effort I put in. She honors and encourages that effort every day. This one witness makes all the difference. Sometimes when I talk with doctors or others, I think they're thinking, "Yeah, right. Like she works out that much..." But knowing that Kari knows. That she actually knows which days I get to the gym, how long I'm there, the walks I take on day I can't get to the gym, etc. gives me a confidence and encouragement that I hadn't had before.
I honestly have no idea if accountability partnering is helping Kari or not, but I'm so grateful that she's jumped into this with me. If you're thinking of having an accountability partner, but don't know who to ask, here's some questions I asked myself before talking to Kari.
1. Who is in a similar phase of life? While I think that it might be possible to have an accountability partner who is notably older or younger than you, I felt like it would be best to be well matched.
2. Who has a similar schedule? I have some wonderful friends who are ambitious and goal driven, but work full time. They're likely not going to be able to text often during the day to either report or give feedback. (e.g. I can't really imagine my a dear friend who is a teacher pausing her 1st grade class to text "Good job!" when I'm done at the gym.)
3. Who can text often? Kari and I don't text much on the weekends--Sunday's almost not at all--but the rest of the week we text each other 15-30 times per day, both reporting our progress and encouraging each other.
4. Who has similar goals? Kari and I both have a blog, like marketing, are invested in public education by helping in classes, PTA, etc. We have a similar number of kids who are of similar ages. We have found that we often are driving carpool on the same day. We both love being stay-at-home moms, but have interest in entering the work force at some point. Maybe. It depends on how well the work-at-home stuff can go. This is a lovely place for both of us.
5. Who do you like, but don't naturally see often? Kari and I live on opposite sides of the same city. Our sons (her 1st and my 3rd) were in a gifted program together for 3 years. And then they went to junior high. Our boys will go to different high schools and none of the rest of our kids line up. Except for a chance meeting or deliberate scheduling, Kari and I don't run into each other much. I think that's actually a helpful characteristic. I really don't think I could have a neighbor or ward member successfully be my accountability partner.
6. Who is supportive, but not judgmental? If I take a nap or read a book, I need someone to say, "Way to go! You took time for yourself! That's so important." You have to be honest. This needs to be someone you can say, "I've been on Twitter for the last hour and I need to get going." without feeling overly embarrassed.
7. Be flexible to stop being partners if it's no longer helpful. When we began, we agreed to try this for a month or so, then talk about it. We adapt as we go (not texting on Sundays) and we can stop being partners at any time. We're also going to have to figure out how to get through vacations and other pauses. If there's one thing that I know for sure, it's that having an accountability partner is helping me not only reach my goals, but also my potential.