Who are you accountable to?

I’m accountable to my family. The choices I make, both positive and negative, impact their lives directly and indirectly in many, many ways. Every time I see them, I’m driven to make good choices that build a long term future for both myself and for them.

I’m accountable to my readers. If I don’t consistently write compelling and useful material, the readers will cease to come. That means I have to constantly strive for new and interesting angles and perspectives on personal finance topics.

I’m accountable to my own future. I have big dreams and big goals, and I see that the little choices I make now have surprisingly large impacts on those goals. Whenever I devote time to something now, for example, I take away time from something else. Whenever I spend money on something, I take money away from building that future I want.

Not too long ago, though, I wasn’t really accountable to anyone at all – or at least I didn’t see it that way. I didn’t see how my actions today really affected my future – or perhaps I just didn’t care to look. I looked at my writing as primarily a method to make me feel better, and I didn’t really worry too much about my family at all, believing that if I had a steady job, they’d be fine.

All of those assumptions were false. Every choice I make in my personal life affects not only my own future, but my family’s future – so I must make good ones. Every choice I make in my professional life not only affects my income level, but also affects you, the reader – so I must make good ones there, too.

Being accountable to others – my family, my readers, and my future self – is a very, very powerful stick, indeed.

However, for people at different stations in life, it can be difficult to find such accountability – and without such accountability, it’s easier to make poor financial choices. Here are four different ways to find accountability in your own life.

Your future self What do you want your future to be like? Perhaps you’d like to be thinner, or perhaps you’d like to be in better financial shape. Whatever it is, that goal can provide accountability for you. Sketch that goal you have out in as much detail as possible, then come up with a plan for making it there. Then, keep a copy of that plan with you at all times and look at it when you’re tempted to make a poor choice.

Your career or side business Another great filter for keeping you from making bad choices is a simple question: is this choice really good for my career or for my business? Frivolous spending is rarely good for your professional life, nor are most time-wasting activities.

A trusted relative or friend Lay out your goals and plans for the future to someone you really trust and care about. By doing this, you become accountable to that person – they know the things you are striving for and want to help you succeed. Not only can they help you stay motivated along the way, the thought of their disappointment in the event of your failure can help you keep your eye on the ball.

An audience Start a blog about your personal struggles and send the URL around to people you know. Let the challenges pour out there – talk about the things that are hard, the things that are easy, and the things that you’re learning. Alternately, you can sign up for a tracking service like Wesabe or Gyminee to keep detailed track of your forward progress – and allow that information to be shared with your friends.

Accountability is a key part of success no matter what you attempt in life. Who are you accountable to?

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