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Accountability & the Dichotomy of Goal Sharing

TL;DR - To become someone who can leverage your relationships for increased accountability in things you want to achieve, only share your goals with people you trust to keep you on track.

I’m a big believer in accountability, and I’ve used a few different methods to keep my habits and routines in check. I interface with a few friends once a week, and discuss how the past week went, what got done, what was difficult, what kinds of goals we have for next week, and so on. I strongly feel that for me, this is a much better form of accountability than posting milestones and routines on social media– here’s why.

When I decided at the start of 2021 I was going to run every day for a year, I was doing it for fun and without any thoughts about with how I would be sharing my activity. The first few weeks were novel, and I ran for the sake of running. Posting on Instagram after reaching the one-month mark was incredibly well-received, with many people dropping me a message saying, this is so inspiring!”, or a congrats, I could never”. I was running a mile a day, every day, for as long as I could muster. Here and there I would run a 5K, and there was even a night where I managed to run 10 miles. I loved the feeling of accomplishment that I had as I shared and completed goal after goal, PR after PR, and as I shared it with people on social media and in real life, the praise came rolling in. Over time though, I found myself desperately refreshing my DMs and checking if anyone has left an additional comment about my run that day. I’ve taken a month completely off of running, and I can say for sure that at certain points this year, I was running for the validation others instead of for my own health and enjoyment.

The goal-sharing dichotomy was something that I discovered through the six months that I ran every day. I define it as the choice between sharing a goal with as many people as possible to leverage their accountability and praise, or making a goal as intrinsically important to you as possible to feel a sense of fulfillment by doing it completely on your own. Each yields their own benefits and drawbacks, and it’s up to the individual to figure out if more or less of each method will help them reach a desired outcome. I feel that in my situation, I shared too much and got used to the initial dopamine hit of people responding to my daily posts. Acknowledging that I leaned too much into one side of the equation is easy, but having introspective thought about what the right balance is for me will take much longer than the six months I was running.

My running streak, (which conveniently ended on July 1st, making my streak exactly six months long) was shared every day with hundreds of people on Instagram. Georgetown professor Cal Newport says that while binary interactions on social media can make you feel your quota for social interaction (or accountability, in this case) is satisfied, you’re probably relying on Likes instead of your own intrinsic motivation to do difficult things. These kinds of shallow interactions are what I would suggest you avoid if you’re looking for a way to keep yourself accountable for outcomes you want to achieve. In my experience, to become someone who can leverage your relationships for increased accountability in things you want to achieve, keep your circle small and your interactions deep.

Until next week,

Jonah

P.S. Want to read a more in-depth article about accountability? You can do that here. ___ Want to leave a comment about this article? You can do that here. Want to know when the next post is up? Find me on Twitter for the latest.

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