Finishing my first and last beer of the night, I place a brown bottle at my feet. Surrounded by friends who I will not see for quite some time, I happily chat on the balcony of an apartment I’m moving out of tomorrow. It’s a surprisingly cool night in LA. Southern Californians have suffered over the past few weeks with temperatures in the 80s and 90s. Rest of the country, especially those soon to shovel the first snow of winter, please pity us!
Talk of the election, our jobs (or lack thereof) and upcoming concerts mix with music escaping from inside. More friends, and a couple of strangers I’ve never laid eyes on, enter the apartment. A cacophony of high-pitched squeals and deep-voiced approvals drown our conversations and the music for just a moment. Among the new arrivals is my friend Tyler. Excited to catch up with the guy, I leap out of my seat and kick the now empty beer bottle. Instinctively I reach for it and naturally, only assist its path off the balcony. Echoes of shattering glass silence the balcony once again. I brush it and my friends’ jeers of “party foul” off as I take my leave.
Weaving through the now crowded kickback-turned party, I find Tyler and begin discussing life. Within my LA group of friends, there are only a few I consider wonderful conversationalists. The ability to listen intently, provide meaningful and specific feedback and the willingness to do so on a consistent basis are rare traits for an individual to embody all at once. Tyler is one of them. After we discuss his newest position and its benefits as well as pitfalls, he turns the conversation towards me. I relay excitement at the impending reality of moving home. How my productivity has fallen off the past few months. That it’s been an incredible year filled with adventures and experiences I had never imagined unfolding. And that I need a break from it all.
“Shifting gears,” he smiles. My quizzical expression leads him to recount his time working in Connecticut. Away from family, friends and other distractions that occupy—not in a necessarily bad way—a large portion of our lives. He goes onto describe the experience as challenging and sometimes lonely—however, ultimately rewarding. By and for himself, he made accountability a core value intrinsic to his life. Since then, it has paid off with steady and enjoyable work as well as a newfound perspective on the importance of balancing professional responsibilities and social pleasures. The parallels between his experience and my near future excite me.
I thank him for sharing his story and the insight I’ve gained from it. We split into different conversations and carry on until saying goodbyes at the wee hours of the morning. Crashing, I feel light and optimistic about the move. It’s an opportunity to distance myself from unneeded distractions and a chance to zero in on important future needs and wants. Whereas I’ve spent the last few months aloof socializing and having fun with no clear path for my next step in life, the upcoming months will prove the exact opposite. It’s recognizing and being thankful for the fun, growth and lessons learned of the near past and then “shifting gears” by accepting accountability for what lies ahead.
One benefit in accepting personal accountability is an increase in personal productivity. For most of my life, I’ve successfully accomplished tasks and goals through understanding the importance of deadlines. However, I realize without some form of structure providing such deadlines (school assignments, project dates, races) I falter in doing work. Thus, after much resistance but knowing its vital importance, I sat down and created a list of personal items (both needs and wants) with dates by which they need to be accomplished or met.
You know when an interviewer asks that abstract and haunting question, “Where do you see yourself in [x] amount of years?” I’ve always hated that probe into my personal and professional life yet finally believe I have some semblance of an answer. Not only for a year down the road but also for the end of the week. I’ve found by breaking down each month into weeks, accomplishing tasks and/or meeting goals becomes infinitely more tangible. When something is within sight, it becomes real. It then emits a needed pressure which compels me to action and thus to do work.
Finishing a task and/or meeting a goal by a deadline warrants checking it off the list. This creates momentum and a high that creates enthusiasm for another item on the list. Lists will act as my means of personal accountability moving forward so that I’m happy with my level of personal productivity. However, it never hurts to have some help along the way.
Remember that beer bottle that shattered both glass and conversation from the balcony? Well, here it is in its fractured glory!
I wish I could say I took that picture and cleaned it up by own volition. That would be a lie. A good friend of mine, Sagar, snapped the picture and sent it my way upon leaving my apartment. His friendly reminder of my accident that night gently pushed me out of bed to clean up my mess. In this case, Sagar’s picture spurred me to action in a situation I should have addressed earlier or may not have addressed at all. He held me accountable and for that I’m grateful.
Having someone to hold me accountable like Sagar did that morning was lucky and convenient. I’d suggest eliminating these two variables from the equation entirely. Rather, look for an accountability partner. Someone to hold you accountable through the good and bad times.
Figure out qualities you’d like today in an accountability partner and start tackling your personal items with some friendly help!