You’ve made a commitment to fasting from an activity or you’re trying to develop a new habit or meet a fresh goal. Studies show that accountability is a key way to stay in the lane you’re aiming for.

What does healthy accountability look like?

We can often confuse accountability with pressure, shaming, or a transference of responsibility. In reality, healthy accountability should look nothing like that. So what are the hallmarks of accountability that both works and comes from a healthy place?

Accountability is about partnership, not control.

Healthy accountability is healthy. It should leave you feeling empowered and focused, not humiliated or dominated. You should be the person to set the parameters when it comes to inviting someone in to your accountability process. Any accountability that carries with it controlling behaviors, demands, or heavy-handed shame language is not actually accountability, but rather is a disempowering approach that will not allow you to build internal self-discipline. 

Accountability is about you engaging your self-discipline, not relying on someone else’s.

You can be inspired by your accountability partner, you can admire how they navigate their wellness journey, you can borrow some of their best ideas and make them your own. But they are not ultimately responsible if you choose to follow through on your goals or not. I heard a friend one time blame her husband for her continued challenge with healthy eating. “He’s supposed to be holding me accountable,” she said. “But I’m still able to sneak candy bars past him and he doesn’t notice.” Um, hard stop. It’s not an accountability partner’s job to either stop you from a behavior or force you to start. It is the role of an accountability buddy to be a safe place for you to talk about the challenges you’re facing and to help you brainstorm helpful approaches.

Sometimes the best accountability buddy is the one who walks alongside you in the journey.

When I train for races as a runner, there is no question that I train harder and more consistently when I train with my running partner. And she feels the same way about me. Just our presence in showing up with our running shoes on to fulfill our running calendar speaks volumes. I don’t want to let her down and she doesn’t want to let me down. Finding someone to share nutrition goals with, scripture reading schedules, fitness markers, someone who is willing to engage in the same disciplines, can be a great way to develop accountability in your life in real time.

Your accountability partner can be someone you know from church, your neighborhood, or your online community. Don’t make it complicated; it can be as simple as a daily text. As you begin the accountability journey, build it healthy right from the start and watch your commitment to your goals soar!

Julie Lyles Carr is a best-selling author, podcaster, and entrepreneur living in Austin, Texas, with her husband Mike Carr. They have eight kids, two unfriendly cats, and an antique dachshund.