I recently had a conversation with a friend from junior high. I don’t exactly remember what led up to this, although I hope it was profound. I think we were reflecting on things we might have told our younger selves.  And he shared his personal mantra of looking at himself in the mirror each morning to make the conscious choice to do his best each day.  I like that.

The buzzword is “accountability.”  We all know people who shine in that arena.  And people who don’t.

A long time ago, I used to work for an attorney I’ll refer to as “Leonard the Lunatic.”  I could always count on him to look for the blame rather than the repair, and he never ever looked in the mirror.  Back then, I simply didn’t like or respect him.  Now, I understand that he wasn’t actually an asshole.  He simply lacked personal accountability.

How do you know whether you need to adjust your reflection in the mirror? See if any of these resonate:

A.  I typically have an excuse when things go wrong.

B.  It’s almost always someone else’s fault.

C.  I know I said I’d get it done today, but it’s probably not going to happen.

D.  Someone else will fix it.

If you nodded your assent to at least one of these four statements, you might need an accountability adjustment, or you might find yourself in the position to help someone close to you become more accountable.

“How does that happen?” you ask.  “Can we change the image we see in the mirror?  Absolutely!  

The first step is to make a commitment to yourself about what you want to achieve.  Maybe it’s to save $1,000 by the end of the year.  Maybe it’s to quit drinking or lose weight.  Personal accountability starts with a commitment.

Next, define your expectations.  How are you going to save that money?  Do you start by giving up your daily Starbucks latte?  Does your employer offer an option to withhold some money each week from your paycheck?  Do you have an empty Sparkletts bottle in your garage that might make a good loose change receptacle?

Don’t forget to be realistic.  Figure out a few baby steps so that when you succeed, you’ll give yourself the confidence and the impetus to change the baby steps into bigger ones.  I’m not suggesting that you abandon your bigger dreams and goals.  Rather, start honestly.

Try to eliminate blame.  It’s unhelpful and can be considered sabotage, especially when you’re blaming yourself.  Instead of focusing on whose fault it is (like Leonard the Lunatic), figure out how to fix it,

If you’re stuck, ask for some feedback.  Maybe an accountability partner will remind you to eat an apple instead of driving through Starbucks.

And finally, remember that this all takes practice.   The image we see in the mirror has changed over time.  And with practice, it will look better and better.