New Year’s Goals: How Using Accountability Can Lead to Success

by | Read time: 4 minutes

The statistics are in and they’re grim. Depending where you look, failure rates for New Year’s resolutions are as high as 92%. Those are the kinds of odds that make you want to curl up in bed for the first month of the new year and eat nothing but bon bons.

Of course, that won’t help when reaching goals is top priority. You want to become healthier, maybe lose a couple pounds or choose more organic products. You’re a step ahead of many people who woke up with hangovers, pulled the sheets over their heads and just went back to sleep.

You have step one done: Make a healthy resolution. So nice work! But now what?

2 Women Running up Stairs Have Each Other as Their Accountability Partner for Reaching Goals Faster |

Find an accountability partner to help you achieve your goals

According to a Dominican University of California psychology professor, Gail Matthew’s, one of the best tools to keep you on track this year is completely free and readily available – a friend. An accountability partner is the key to success when it comes to resolutions. Most people can live with letting themselves down, but when a second person is involved – someone they respect and trust – the stakes for failure are much higher.

4 steps to create an accountability partner agreement:

  1. Communicate your needs.
  2. Set realistic goals.
  3. Routinely check in.
  4. Celebrate every success (and don’t beat yourself up if you stumble along the way).

1. Communicate your needs

Your friend can help you, and you can help your friend; but it’s important to create an accountability pact that will benefit, not hinder, you and your friend’s success. Sit down with your pal and let each other know how to encourage the other toward success – whether it’s a friendly nag, a gentle pat on the back or downright slapping those brownies out of her hand at lunch time.

Some people get hyped up by a good cheerleader, while some need a gentle nudging or a friendly reminder to stay away from the temptations. Alternatively, criticism, no matter how positive, may drive some relationships down the drain. So be sure to communicate what makes you respond in the best way to help you both get the most out of your accountability agreement.

2. Set realistic goals

This step can be done together or separately, but both of you need to know the goals – and the goals need to be actionable. Roy Baumeister, a social psychologist, suggests creating ‘bright lines’ – simple, unambiguous rules that can be clearly kept or clearly broken – to help you keep your New Year’s resolution. Bright lines also make it easier for your friend to keep you accountable.

However, if you make an ambiguous resolution for yourself, like, “I want to lose weight,” it makes it harder for your partner to keep you accountable for anything, and increases the chance you will not change anything.

Augment your big goal with small, bright-line goals along the way. Your friend can help keep you accountable to these, and you can feel good about your progress. With many small goals, hemmed by bright lines, you can enjoy each notch in your belt on the way to the big goal.

Some clear, specific goals, include:

  • “I will lose 2 pounds this week.”
  • “I will limit myself to one piece of chocolate per day.”
  • “I will practice yoga twice a week.”
  • “I will replace at least one meal per week with a salad.”

3. Routinely check in

A friend can’t help if you don’t talk to them, so make sure to check in with your accountability partner regularly. You may think to yourself, “they’re a friend, I’ll see them eventually and we’ll get around to talking about our goals.” But, goals are seldom achieved when you leave them to chance. Scheduling is a crucial part of ensuring items get completed.

Meeting and discussing how your goals are coming along with your accountability partner is a critical step to keeping your New Year’s resolution; and as such, this time needs to be respected if you’re serious about reaching your goals.

4. Celebrate your success

Everyone fails on the way to reaching their goals – you back slide and that leads to feelings of guilt. If all you have is guilt to push you along, though, you’ll be relying on negative feelings. That’s not a great way to stay excited about your New Year’s resolution.

Positive reinforcement is an important part of meeting goals. Your accountability partner can help you by celebrating when you meet each of those small goals on the way to your main goal, but encourage you if you backslide. It’s also important not to beat yourself up if you do fall back a few steps on your list of goals for the new year. Make sure your journey is defined by celebration — not guilt.

An accountability partner can help guide you to success

Nothing grows in the dark. If you keep your New Year’s resolution to yourself, it’s about as likely to grow as a tree inside a cave. Add a bit of fresh air and sun, revealing the seeds to your New Year’s resolution, and you’ll be surprised at how fast it grows into accomplishment!