A Facebook Question

Today one of my long-ish time readers, the lovely Peta-Gai, sent me a message via Facebook. I thought her enquiry was broadly relevant and I figured that my response might be of interest to some of you. So, here is PG’s message and my thoughts:

“You talk of accountability systems in your last blog post…can you please share in your next post how to create such systems and what works best? I need help with this bit. Thanks heaps.”

If (like PG) you’re familiar with my work then you’re probably sick of me telling you that motivation (while handy when it’s around) is not the key to creating forever results; the thing we’re all chasing. I’m certainly sick of saying it but sadly, too many people still buy into the ‘I’ll get motivated and then I’ll change my life forever’ myth, when the common experience tends to be more in the ‘I’ll get motivated and then I’ll get de-motivated’ realm.

In the Zone, Out of the Zone…

We all know that peaks and troughs of motivation are a normal part of the human experience, so the challenge for us is not to stay permanently motivated (pumped, excited, in-the-zone) but rather, to stay committed, productive, focused and proactive in the middle of our fluctuating levels of motivation. Which is why accountability is such an important ingredient in the success recipe.


An effective accountability system encompasses the not-very-emotional things like organisation, structure, assessment and strategy. Not surprisingly, many people fail to achieve their goals simply because they have no post-motivation plan. Eventually their motivation dies and so to do the transformational behaviours. And so to do the results. They then languish in some kind of de-motivated state waiting for a new wave of motivation to hit them. In many ways, their potential is held hostage by their emotions.

Overall, a crap plan.

Sometimes it Sucks

So PG (and others), to keep it simple and practical, an accountability system is any strategy, technique or process that will keep you doing what’s required (to change your life), even in the absence of motivation, fun, convenience and comfort. The reality of the transformation journey is that sometimes (often?) it’s not fun, easy, quick, convenient, comfortable or sexy. And sometimes it sucks.

As a coach, one of my biggest challenges is to prepare people mentally and emotionally for the practical reality of doing what’s required to create sustained real-world change. My experience is that some people are enamoured with the theory of transformation and the feeling of short-term motivation while not being prepared to work hard enough for long enough.

And when I say some, I really mean… many.

The Best Plan?

PG, in reference to your “what works best” question, there is no single (best) answer. Which may not be what you want to hear but it’s the truth. As with many things (diet, medicine, psychology, relationships, spirituality, etc.), different things work for different people, which is why my best strategy won’t be yours and vice-versa. Over the years, I’ve used and recommended things like performance diaries (where we record results, behaviours and relative data), exercise partners (we don’t want to let someone else down), regular assessments (to provide us with objective feedback regarding our progress), monthly targets (to help us stay focused, proactive and committed), non-negotiable appointments (ones we can’t cancel!), incorporating a professional (doctor, dietician, psychologist, trainer) into the process, daily, weekly and monthly to-do lists and lots more.  

As you consider this post, keep in mind that all the intentions, plans and accountability measures in the world will amount to nought as long as we take a “this all seems too hard and isn’t there an easier way” attitude into the process. The moment we stop looking for the easy, glamorous, painless solution is the moment we increase our chances of succeeding. :)

If you liked this article, subscribe to my blog and receive my FREE eBook. Click here: I want a FREE eBook. If you’re interested in having me work with your organisation you can contact me here.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Dad January 22, 2013 at 4:25 pm

Craig harper is an australian life coach guy. I need to read more of his stuff. His stuff is different then the other people.


Anonymous January 22, 2013 at 6:48 pm

Thank you for this post, and your honesty that changing isn’t always “fun, easy, quick, convenient, comfortable or sexy”. I’m one of those people who seems to have tried a thousand times to change things, and then given up – a transformational hokey cokey. But you’ve helped me get to the point now where I’m happy to try again (although I can feel the mental brakes going on – “from past experience I doubt I can achieve much result”). Trying to keep in mind that doing something is better than doing nothing. Thanks for your (ongoing) help.


Sulagna January 23, 2013 at 1:11 am

Great post. “Accountability partners are us” is a post I remember from may be a few years ago.
See I remember even the name. ;)


PG January 23, 2013 at 1:31 am

Ahhhhhh Craig! No wonder I couldn’t come up with an answer myself….it’s one of freakin’ HARD ones! THANK YOU for this brilliant summary of how to pull my shit together in this space. Interestingly, when reflecting on this post, a lot of the suggestions (not negotiable appointments, training buddy etc) have a bit of shame attached in amongst it…the “I’m not doing it properly”, or the “I’ve not committed and ate shit, which will show on the scales”….and the lots of excuses that go with the “not doing” the stuff I know to do. And that all means there’s still some unnecessary emotional crap tied in and this post has made me really see that clearly for the first time. Sooooo first step is to clear that away and to just get on with it. Yes, I’m the queen of excuses. It’s time to let that go since it doesn’t serve me. THANK YOU SO MUCH for this post (for me and all the others like me who need help)….as always, you exceed my expectations with what you offer. I really appreciate it! :-) )))) You’re awesome, Craig!!! PG xoxo


Victoria January 23, 2013 at 1:53 am

Oh wowzie… I totally needed this reminder! Thank you… I am struggling right now with remaining focused. My son-in-law was diagnosised with a very rare and serious form of cancer. Tough to stay in the zone when outside the zone is so chaotic. Thanks for the post.


Anonymous January 23, 2013 at 10:34 am

hang in there Victoria – tough gig you have got going on. Hope it all works out for you and the family.


PETA January 23, 2013 at 6:59 am

Really benefited from this post, so well written. I for one will be applying this new found knowledge and embracing transformation with new insight. As I was digesting it ( pardon the pun). I was thinking of the countless ways one becomes unmotivated after the typical “start your diet Monday morning” thinking fades ( usually by 4pm). Maybe sticking this post on the fridge with a timer to go off at 3.59pm might be a good start…. It really is motivation that gets you started isn’t it, but actually doing the do that gets you through. Thanks Craig…much appreciated.. And you saved me $10000000 of dollars & hours NOT being told this by 10000000 of different trainers, weight loss capers, & schemes who profit off this fact. My cheque is in the mail. I will report back for duty every morning…


Katie January 23, 2013 at 7:40 am

Great article and interestingly refreshing. I have just sat down and started to put together a 90 day plan with my work colleague / business coach / accountability person and putting in the things that are really important to me (big rocks) – and having someone else buy into them – is extremely helpful. My colleague is not there to reprimand or give me a hard time – rather to say ‘did you do what you said you would do?’ If you did not, then ‘what can I do to help you to ahcieve what it is you said you would’………. great way to help keep me on track!! Thanks Craig for the clarity……….. :o )


Giulia January 23, 2013 at 8:52 am

Great info Craig! Every point u make hit me exactly where it hurt but the truth of the matter is that it’s in my control! I am definitely going through a trough and if I don’t get my shit together I’m going to keep digging a bigger hole! Thanks for this timely reminder n valuable info I can apply to help me get back on track. Cheers :-)


Shell January 23, 2013 at 8:57 am

Thanks Craig
Good timing – as I lay here thinking of viable, creative even, excuses of why I should not train this morning…..I’m up and about to head off to meet my trainer. Motivation has been kicked to the kerb and determination and focus has take over. Another win for good health!


dave January 23, 2013 at 11:54 am

Hi Craig,
I’ve been coming here since July and utilising your words of wisdom to basically make myself well. I’m a lot younger than my wife and i don’t fancy having her caring for me (wiping my bum etc) when I’m no longer able to myself.
I think it was you who also said: train your body, then train your mind…To those ends, i have noticed that my biggest stumbling block to fitness was my basic lack of confidence in my abilities.
It became more evident since I commenced running, that i’m now fit enough to run more than I was doing, but the old ‘you can’t do that’ voice in the back of my head came into play more often than not.
However, I’m learning to not listen to the voice and listen more to my body. Lately I have been able to run further and ignore the old you can’t do that attitude.
Thanks Craig.

Since Julyi


chebbieanne January 24, 2013 at 12:39 pm

I think the most simple accountability tool is a daily diary.
Writing down everything you eat,drink and what activity you do every day is simply the most effective thing you can do.
When all is going well you can see why at a glance and when things are not going according to plan you can also see why.
The mind plays tricks, people tell you what they think you want to hear but a diary is a daily journal of what really happened.
Your diary will tell you the truth as long as you record everything honestly – even if some days you would rather skip things!
When you have committed to write it all down – honestly – you become more conscious of what you do and how that affects your body. At a party for instance you need to remember everything you eat and drink because it is all going in the diary.
Your exercise – planned and random gets recorded. After a while it becomes your personal instruction manual.
Not going so well this week? refer back to a week that worked and you will soon see where you are going wrong.
At first it seems a bit silly but in time you become very good at record keeping and it only takes a few minutes a day. My diary taught me so much and took all the mystery out of how to best manage me.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: