This is a stunning and bold statement. It got me to thinking: In what ways is this statement true? How is one “a danger to himself”? What makes the absence of self-accountability dangerous? It’s easier for me to see how a person suffers socially or professionally when they try to disconnect their choices and behavior from the negative consequences of their decisions, but how does it hurt them privately? Oh, wait. I think I know. It’s happened to me.
My last two children were born 18 months apart. They were #4 and #5. After our third child was born I knew I needed a break from another pregnancy. I was mommy-maxed at the time but our family didn’t quite feel complete. A few years passed. My husband James and I had moved to a new state--three young children in tow--to start down the road of entrepreneurship as retail business owners. We were making successful strides into our industry and we were busy! Somehow we managed to divide our shifts in the store with our responsibilities as parents. Eventually, we got a handle on the new balance of our lives when I began to feel that the time was right to consider completing our family. We added two little boys to our brood in 2004 and 2005 and with that, my sense of order and balance were again knocked off-kilter and I had to reorient myself to our two new beautiful babies.
As a mother of two tiny ones, I forgot how much work they could be. How could I have forgotten?! I was frequently tired and we all know how well we handle stress and stimulation when we are too tired, too stressed, under-prepared, under-resourced, etc. It’s not ideal. One of the unintended consequences of my personal imbalance became noticeable in our #4, Dallin. Between the ages of 2-3, Dallin started to lie. These weren’t the kind of lies that come from a creative, burgeoning, imagination. These were different. They were lies told to protect himself from mommy’s quick scolding, from an earlier than normal nap-time, so mommy could have a few more minutes of quiet, from being reprimanded sharply. His lies were completely my fault. From all the inner commotion and imbalance I was experiencing (and certainly expressing) I was too distracted to put two and two together; my husband noticed this pattern in Dallin first. I remember sharing my frustration with James about the lies our little guy was telling with greater regularity when my husband asked me: “Why do you think he feels the need to lie?” Over the next few days, I began to reflect on my own behavior and try to see how I might be coming across to our son. It was painful and I resisted at first. I wanted these little ones. I knew they were an important addition to our family. I also knew they would be my last babies. I had finally felt the family was complete but I was also struggling with postpartum depression, with managing 5 children, with serving in our church, and all while trying to free up my husband as much as possible so he could focus on providing for our family. How could I possibly be more patient? More caring? More? More? More?! I had to adapt my perspective to Dallin’s. He was a baby. I was an adult. I was responsible to change, to evolve.
The price of not changing was too great. I will probably share the exact process I used to change my behavior in later posts but suffice it to say, Dallin’s lies stopped. I will always be grateful to my husband for pointing out the obvious and for being my accountability partner in raising our children. Today, Dallin is a reliable and conscientious 16 year old. I think if he could remember this story he would be mortified today, so we’ll just keep it between us (wink, wink)!
The danger to my son was obvious but what was the danger of my behavior to myself? I believe my own happiness was at risk, too. The wise leader Mahatma Gandhi said, “There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supersedes all other courts.”
At the end of the day, we each live with ourselves and the conditions we create in our lives and in many of our associations. We all need someone we can turn to to help us stay on track, someone who can help us see from a new perspective. We need people we can report to regularly and who we can also help as they try to move down their own path of progress and improvement.
As you make plans and begin to act on them it’s important to work within a system of accountability that invites you to report your progress regularly. We are not meant to be alone. Our associations with others can provide us with opportunities to check and measure our growth both personal and professional. Some of our opportunities for goal accountability are informal and include talking to friends, siblings, a significant other, a spouse, or a co-worker. Other systems of reporting are more formal and may include reporting back to a boss or manager, a business partner, to customers, or to a hired coach or mentor. Who you choose to report to will be influenced by the type of goal or objective you are trying to reach.
Protect Your Goals and Dreams
There is an important principle embedded in my story that does not linger on the surface. My accountability partner, my husband, is a person I trust and rely on. We have a mutual investment in the happiness of each other and in the well-being of our children. We are deeply invested in each other's success. Be wise when choosing whom you will report your goals and dreams to. Find someone who fits these requirements:
- You trust their judgment.
- They are invested in your happiness and success because it affects them in some way, too.
- They have the power to influence or enable your goals and objectives directly.
When it comes to the raising of our children, James fits all of these requirements. I look for the same attributes in any and all people who I allow to influence me whether they be friends, family, peers, associates, leaders, bosses, or potential mentors. Who do you trust to be your accountability partner? Do they fit the requirements above?
Make a List of Accountability Partners
Make a list of the people you rely on to report back to. Kathy Stanton, the author of many books including, Simple Living and Loving It, advises us to consider close friends and family members as personal development partners:
Maybe, for now, you have just one name on your list: God. That’s a pretty incredible start. He’s at the very top of my list. It’s stabilizing and comforting to me to have Him there--omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent. The rest of us are imperfect so build your list carefully through trial and error. Some may join your list. Others will be excused over time. In my list of people I report back to some people fill very specific roles and are not to be used in all areas of my life. This would be injudicious of me. As a teacher, I was responsible to report back and be accountable to our school’s director through formal yearly meetings. To my students, I was required to be accountable daily. Even though I was acting in a leadership capacity as their teacher, I was working directly on their behalf for them. Our interactions and outcomes were mutually beneficial. However, I did not report back to my students regarding personal matters or growth. Our association, though symbiotic, was limited to the professional setting. Be wise in setting up your own boundaries as you create systems of accountability for yourself. All the same, make your list and adapt it as needed.
Join or Create a System of Professional Development
Many professional organizations have systems of development uniquely suited to their purposes as a business. State and Private Education Departments have their own systems. As a teacher, we had both yearly and monthly training meetings conducted regularly in person, in groups large and small, and sometimes through email. More developed, private businesses will have a Human Resource division and inter-departmental training of their own. Even as small business owners in retail for many years, my husband held regular Saturday morning training meetings for our sales staff in order to review challenges, teach better communication, and review service tips in order to improve their success and help our customer’s needs be better met.
Beautiful Living Systems also has opportunities for women working in professions outside their home to connect, report back, and learn, not just from each other but also from occasional guest speakers in a smaller, more accessible setting. The primary questions I get are:
- What does a mastermind group include?
- Is it time-consuming or demanding?
- Does it cost something?
- How can it help me?
To help answers to these questions, I’ve created an illustration (I love visual learning!):
The Beautiful Living Systems Professional Mastermind Group meets locally here in Utah County, once a month. It is limited to a small, customized group of 5-7 women who are professionals in their fields with varying areas of expertise. There is a yearly enrollment fee that’s so reasonable! and paid monthly--for $197/month--as a special founder’s rate. They receive monthly newsletters which I write. We share strategies across our industries, we read and discuss what we are learning from business books which we select among ourselves. We take turns leading discussions. We are accountable to each other as we commit to goals. And we share ideas and encourage each other in our specific challenges. It’s synergistic, non-competitive, and growth-minded.
Would you like to be part of this, too? If you are at a place in your life where this would be helpful to you, please let me know. I love being connected to others who want to learn and improve. I love having regular access to other success-minded, female associates who I can motivate and who help motivate me back. Whenever I start to falter in my professional goals or think my work doesn’t matter, or whenever I feel myself losing motivation, I think about my group. I think about what milestones I will want to have accomplished so I can report a success--knowing we are going to get back together again soon. This is exactly what a system of accountability should do: help you stay on track, help you feel connected, help stay motivated to keep the promises you’ve made to yourself, and encourage and advise you if you need support and direction!
Because Beautiful Living Systems is my professional work, I have the availability to create multiple groups. Please let me know through email if you are interested in a Professional Mentoring Group at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also contact me through the link on this blog site. I’ll send you a pdf application right away. I would love to be part of your system of accountability.
An Educated Conscience In Review
This blog post is the final post in a series of five. I sincerely hope you are finding hope, inspiration, and renewed courage as you’ve read through them. All five posts have focused on one principle: on increasing our emotional and social intelligence or what Stephen Covey called an “educated conscience.” The principles, as a review, are as follows:
Even though they are listed as steps from #1 through #5, in reality, they overlap, and the process can begin anew with every new, good, and uplifting desire we consider. Sometimes this process is set in motion through self-realization. Sometimes it comes to us due to desperation or because of chaotic or discouraging conditions outside of our control. Some cycles last a lifetime--and hopefully eternally--like how to be more present and aware as a wife and mother. Some cycles of life are shorter and more menial like learning how to plant a seasonal garden (As if! I have the brownest thumb!), or how to... (fill in the blank). The truth is there are things we need to remember to keep in this process, there are things we are super good at that have become habitual and natural, and there are some that will come in time as the needs and conditions of our lives evolve and change. Life exists in multiple stages of development for all of us, simultaneously. We can help each other out!
A Personal Invitation
If I can help you better directly, if you’d like to be part of my Beautiful Living Systems Professional Mastermind Group with women who enjoy a reliable system of accountability and growth, please contact me through this blog or at email@example.com. I’ll send you a pdf application that you can download and email back to me. Until next time...
Founder and President of Beautiful Living Systems, Inc.
My next post will focus on how you can either create or join a group that’s focused on personal development systems of accountability. They are fun, motivating, and purposeful. Stay tuned in by “following” me in the top right corner of this blog. I’d love to keep in touch!