In my experience working with clients in coaching, many want to jump quickly into setting goals and making a plan. But, they loose focus quickly, get sidetracked easily, or can’t remember the goals they set or why they were important. I believe this happens because there is foundational work that needs to happen before successful goal setting can occur. And there can’t be personal accountability until some goals are set.

In my thirteen years of working with organizations in strategic planning I used a process based on five key questions. The first two questions asked and processed were “who are we” and “where are we now”. These same questions need to be addressed in the path to personal accountability. Answering the questions of “who am I” and “where am I now” leads to self exploration and truth telling. And telling the truth allows us to shed our old skin to be ready to recreate ourselves and our futures through setting goals and being accountable for them.

5 Ways to Tell the Truth About Ourselves
Telling your truth is scary. Many people are willing to go miles out of their way to avoid the truth. That way we avoid the pain that comes with telling the truth. Although denial can work in the short term to make things look all right, in the long term, denial keeps us from the possibility of change—it keeps us stuck in our problems, saps our energy and can leave us exhausted. Denial is a struggle and a struggle implies resistance. And the more we resist something, the more it usually fights back. What we resist, persists. It takes courage to dig deep and allow ourselves to open up to the truth. And while telling the truth might hurt, it is also the first step in getting past the hurt. It opens the door to methods we can use to make effective, enduring changes to improve the quality of our lives.

1) Stop shaming and blaming: Most people see self-evaluation as a negative process, but there is an alternative. We can learn to see shame or blame as excess baggage and just set them aside. We could acknowledge and even regret our mistakes and shortcomings while accepting ourselves completely. We can begin working with our list of weaknesses by celebrating them. The more successful people are, the more likely they are to be open to looking at their flaws. We can love and accept ourselves and still work really hard to change ourselves.

2) Forgive yourself: One powerful way to move from shame to acceptance is to forgive ourselves. Before practicing new skills and new ways of being, it’s wise to clean house. We don’t need to beat ourselves up before we re-invent ourselves. We can be totally honest with ourselves and, at the same time, be gentle. While admitting our mistakes, we can treat ourselves with care. After all, everyone makes mistakes.

3) Let go of the past, but learn from it: We can focus on what we have learned from our past, without getting caught up in repeating our mistakes. We can discover a way to move forward without feeling rotten about the past. We can change the way things are without having to be upset about the way things have been. The past is over. There is nothing you can do to change the past. It is also important for us to let go of who we were or what we did in the past if that is not what we strive to be in the future. This means we have to believe we can change--we can engage in new ways of being and doing. The past is useful in showing us things we do not want to repeat and in exploring lessons we have learned that can be helpful in creating change in the future.
4) Face Your fears: We all have them and they are responsible for holding us back. To identify our fears we need to pay attention and become an observer of ourselves. We should be paying attention to what we fixate on and what we ignore, how we make judgments about situations and how we interpret other’s behavior, and the internal dialogue that is going on when the fear strikes. We need to get to know our mindset- especially patterns like learned pessimism or helplessness and other limiting or negative self statements. Mindset is based on our core beliefs. When we say we are afraid, underneath is a belief we have about ourselves- I am not skilled enough, good enough. etc., or a belief about the world--there is too much competition, people won’t like what I have to offer, etc. When we can let go of fear we can release ourselves in powerful ways.

5) See the connection between strengths and limitations: Most people place strengths and weaknesses in separate, unrelated categories. Another way to perceive them is as being closely related. Often the things about ourselves that we label as weaknesses are simply examples of taking our strengths too far. A person with a passion for organization can become obsessed with details and lose sight of overall goals. A person who listens well may forget to speak about his own thoughts and feelings. These are just a few examples. The point is to remember that our assets and liabilities may all be part of the same personal account.

Telling the truth about ourselves is not an easy process, but it is essential. Without it, change can not occur, goals can not be articulated and reached and we can not truly be free to believe that anything is possible and our lives can be amazing.

Author's Bio: 

In my professional life I have reinvented myself over the past 18 years. I received a doctorate in Clinical/Community Psychology and focused on child and family therapy and prevention programming for youth. For the past thirteen years, I have worked with non profit and community based organizations in implementing outcome measurement and developing and implementing strategic and operational plans. I have also worked with organizations to improve services through conducting needs and assets assessments and developing standards. My transition into Life Coaching represents a blend of my training and work as a therapist with my focus helping organizations set and achieve goals. I am currently working on life coaching certification through the ICF.

Additional Resources covering Personal Accountability can be found at:

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Dr. Lisabeth Saunders Medlock, the Official Guide to Personal Accountability