To jog your memory: We're using the month of September to bust our mental blocks—you know, those thoughts, belief systems, and inactions that stand between us and our creating the thing we want to create before the end of 2017. If you missed it, here's where I give the full scoop on what we're doing and here's the first distinction I shared, just last week.
Wasting no time at all, let's dive into our second distinction of the month:
The Obligation/Accountability Distinction
As you're already well aware, an obligation is an action or a task to which a person is bound because of a legal arrangement, a personal commitment, or a sense of duty.
When I think about what an obligation is and how it shows up in our world, the word 'debt' comes to mind—as in, owing someone something, be it the fulfillment of a promise, the execution of a particular course of action, etc.
Oftentimes obligations involve a penalty for non-fulfillment.
Defaulting on your student loans might mean having a percentage of your wages garnished.
Not meeting a writing deadline might mean tarnishing your professional reputation with the newspaper or magazine.
Failing to turn up for a scheduled and confirmed appointment might mean damaging an important relationship.
With an obligation, there's a sense that something's at stake because there is, actually, something very real (and often external) at stake—and perhaps it's that very fact that drives us to make good on our word: We don't want to suffer the consequences of not meeting our obligations (obligations which we resent because we're perceiving them as expectations placed upon us; this is a stance of passivity).
Accountability, on the other hand, is the fact or condition of being responsible. It looks at the end result—regardless of whether or not the commitment is ultimately fulfilled—and states firmly, I'm willing to take responsibility for myself.
When I consider the concept of accountability and how it shows up in our world, the word 'agency' bubbles to the surface. Agency, meaning the capacity of individuals to act independently and to exercise their ability to choose.
Accountability doesn't live in fear of penalty because accountability is about responsibility for the self.
Knowing that alcohol tends to bring out a side of you that's loud and clumsy and unkind might mean you decide not to drink at your sister's wedding.
Preventing debt might mean paying the credit card bill in full each month, instead of carrying a balance (which might mean never charging more than you can afford to pay off within any four week period).
Dating with integrity might mean being completely (and perhaps uncomfortably) transparent about your desire to keep it casual or make it exclusive.
With accountability, the commitment is to ourselves. Nothing is outsourced—not the debts, not the failures, not the disappointments, and certainly not the responsibilities.
Accountability places great faith in agreements, personal or interpersonal. And because of that, being accountable for something or to someone has the direct effect of empowering us to rise to the occasion.
Now, for your challenge:
I'm inviting you to reconsider a commitment that has you showing up passively (e.g. I'm obligated to drive carpool this week, or It's on me to run the daily meetings until my boss is back from vacation, or I have to be up at 5 a.m. because I promised my neighbor I'd walk with her before work). This week, your mission is to bring an ounce of accountability into the picture.
Between now and next Tuesday, reframe your commitment so that you're clear on how and where your agency factors in.