I spend most of my time working with lovely people who are intelligent and successful, and when it comes to their exercise and nutrition, they know what they should be doing, but they aren’t doing it. Education isn’t always the issue. Instead, the issue is accountability. That’s what we’ll look at in this chapter.
Back in 2007, I had a business coach, and one day in passing he said, “Accountability makes things happen faster”. I reflected on this and realised he was right. To take it one step further, accountability is often the difference between making something happen, and it not happening at all.
Jordan Peterson has a best-selling book called 12 Rules for Life. One of his rules is to “treat yourself like you are someone you are responsible for”. People treat their children, and often their pets, better than they treat themselves. You might let yourself down, but you will usually have too much integrity to let someone else down. This is how a good coaching or mentoring relationship works, and this is where the power of accountability lies.
I have a financial advisor, business mentor, and life coach. I don’t have these people because I don’t know what to do. I know what to do, it’s just that sometimes I don’t do it, and the accountability makes me do it. Plus, it is fun having a sounding board and working with people I like and respect. And it’s inspiring to aim to be continually improving. I believe in life you are either growing or you are dying. Sometimes I get confused, and I want to ensure that I make the right decisions and stay on track, so it’s great having these people in my life. Great coaches can see things so much clearer than we can. They are external, objective, and have the skills to ask the right questions which enable us to answer questions for ourselves. Ownership of your decisions is where the true power lies.
The process of writing this book has been enormous, and it’s something I have wanted to do for years, so I sought out a way to have accountability to make sure I did it and did it well. To establish accountability, I paid the publisher and editor, agreed on a timeline, met the deadlines, and you’re looking at the end result. Without that accountability this book would still just be an idea bouncing around inside my head. People will let themselves down, but they won’t let someone else down.
Your Health and Fitness Accountability
When it comes to health and fitness, you really don’t have to do it alone. You can and should establish a system of accountability there too. There are so many people out there who can help if you need nutrition assistance, as well as help you be consistent and stay on track with exercise. With most of my clients, we do measurements each week. With this regular check in each week, it isn’t about what nutrition plan you are following, it’s about knowing that you will have your measurements taken every Friday that ensures you make the right food and exercise choices throughout the rest of the week. In this way, accountability is established, and it acts as part of their inspiration for making great choices during the week.
On the topic of accountability, some people need a cuddle and some people need a kick up the butt to inspire them to make the appropriate health choices and achieve their goal of peak health. One of my long-term clients is an elderly Chinese lady, and she says, there is “the carrot” and “the stick”. The carrot is the goal that we strive towards. The stick is what you get when your behaviour is not in line with your goals. Ninety-five percent of the time, support and encouragement works better than being firm or getting stern with someone. For this reason, I argue that exercise should be a bright part of your day and a positive part of your life and not a “kick up the butt”.
We are all doing our best, and some days just making it to the gym is the very best a person can do, without having to worry about setting records when they get there. Let alone adding more stress to their week by getting grilled about what they ate, or what they didn’t eat. Like any good relationship, a trainer/client partnership works well when it is based on trust, respect, and open communication. The trainer is supposed to provide the motivation; however, the trainer needs to be motivated too. A trainer’s motivation matches the client’s desire. If it is clear the client isn’t doing their part, it’s hard for a trainer to care long term. Sometimes I say to people, “Don’t make me do this just for the money”. There has to be a deeper reason and a feeling of fulfilment associated with the constant ongoing progress. This is true for the client as well as the trainer.
A fitness industry survey once revealed that if people join a gym and receive no level of support, they are likely to be in the same shape, or even worse, after six months. There were three reasons for this:
- Lack of exercise frequency
- Lack of education and accountability
- Lack of intensity in their training
The best thing about hiring a health professional to walk alongside you on your health and fitness journey is that these three issues are resolved immediately. In my experience, the likelihood of success increases 100-fold when you have the assistance of a trainer or coach. A fitness professional can wear many hats, such as a nutritionist, exercise programmer, trainer, friend, disciplinarian, and psychologist and counsellor. A trainer is an ultimate cheerleader and supporter in the pursuit of peak health.
There will be ups and downs, and you don’t have to be perfect. I see lots of food diaries with pizza, red wine, cheese and crackers, and chocolate. You can still lose weight if you eat those things and still remain in a calorie deficit. That’s where morning fasting can be the ultimate compensation strategy. More on that later.
If you do something that’s not perfect, you are not a failure. It starts again with the next meal and the next training session. Or it starts with missing the next meal! Our aim is to create momentum and be exercising well and eating well daily, most of the time. The focus is on creating a trend of improvement over the next three to six months. At the most basic level, when I first meet someone, they get their exercise going better, and their nutrition going a little better, and they see some positive results. This provides the inspiration to want to keep going and keep improving.
It won’t be linear. You will lose weight some weeks, then stay the same other weeks, then lose, then hold steady, every now and then it will increase, then you will have a big loss, then a small loss, then another hold … Over time, when you have been consistent with your exercise and nutrition while losing an average of 300 grams per week, before you know it, you have lost 10 kilograms in eight months and you look and feel better than you have in 20 years. Please note that having an accountability partner, in this case a trainer like me, made all of this possible by getting the ball going and constantly checking in about progress for the person. Regular accountability for most people is critical.
The concept of accountability does not only apply to health and fitness. Many times, over the years, there has been an extremely fine line between health coaching and life coaching. And in the goal-setting process, my clients have committed to broader goals such as leaving jobs they dislike, moving on from unfulfilling relationships, and even saving money. Having someone that cares and sticks with you on the path to a better life greatly increases the chances of you evolving as a person. An accountability partnership really is that powerful.
Sometimes it can be tough, especially at the start, but as the quote by author and spiritual teacher, Robin Sharma says, “Change is hard at first, messy in the middle, and gorgeous at the end”. And it is through accountability to another person or group of people that each of us sticks it out to reach that “gorgeous end”.