The best type of accountability

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Show notes

Many people struggle with accountability, and understanding more about how it works provides you with another tool you can use to help you achieve your goals. In this episode, Claire breaks down the different types of accountability and which type research says is the best for making progress on the things that matter to you.

There are two frameworks we discuss: Gretchen Rubin's Four Tendencies framework and the accountability theory framework. Claire also shares the questions you should ask yourself to determine if external accountability will unlock sustainable health habits for you.

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Program note: Hey, glad you’re enjoying the podcast! In this episode, you might hear Claire talking about Nutritional Freedom and Foundations. Since we launched the podcast in 2020, we've undergone a makeover to improve the membership experience. For more, listen to our "And we're back! All the updates!" episode.

Transcript

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Claire Siegel: You're listening to the Flourish podcast. I'm your host, Claire Siegel, founder of Flourish. We're on a mission to help women get healthy for good. Join me each week for a new episode, that'll help you sustain healthy habits and nourish your body so you can flourish in life.

Today's episode of the Flourish podcast is brought to you by the Flourish membership... Pretty meta, right?

Ok, but in all seriousness, if you're a fan of the podcast, then your exactly who we built this membership for and you're probably ready to start making some major moves. Flourish is the place where women make peace with food, better their body image, and get healthy for good.

Inside the Flourish membership, you'll get unlimited access to credentialed nutrition and mindset coaches, you'll get community support from women who are on the same page as you, and you're also going to get an evidence-based curriculum to help you cut through the clutter and guide your daily actions.

Now, we're still invite-only, but I'm giving friends of the podcast early access.

So use code PODCAST to get started with a totally free, no strings attached 30-minute strategy session with one of our coaches, and then spend the next week checking out the rest of the membership totally free. The link to sign up is in the show notes. And again, use code PODCAST to sign up today.

Alright, let's get in to the episode.

Claire Siegel: Hello, and welcome back to the Flourish podcast. New year, first fresh episode of 2022. How has your New Year going so far? Ours has been, um, some good and some bad, which isn't that, you know, just life. I think we all go into New Years feeling like they're going to be perfect and fresh and frankly different from the year before, but, you know, that's not always how things go.

Um, Jon and I, you know, I said, I would say we kicked off the year on a really high note. We spent about a week in Mexico City. First week of January, basically. And it... I don't know if you've been there before. It is a magical, magical place. I went a few years back with a couple of girlfriends of mine and I have just been raving about it since then.

And so this was actually supposed to be a trip for my 30th birthday, which was back in July. And then we got our puppy in September, so we pushed it off to December/January. And it, you know, we said it was for my birthday, but I think really that's just how Jon and I kind of get ourselves to take a break and leave Austin and go on a vacation. We always need kind of like a reason because its very easy to talk ourselves into staying at home. I don't know if any of you can relate to that.

So anyway, um, that was my, my wish, um, for my birthday trip was to go to Mexico City. Even though I had already been before I knew... one just that I love it. It quickly became one of my favorite places in the world, and I thought Jon would really like it too. And he'd never been. And I was kind of nervous and like the days leading up to the trip, because I was like, "Man, I really hope that I haven't hyped this up too much for him." Like, what if it's different than I remember? What if it's different, you know, not being a girls trip?

I don't know. I just got like a little nervous that maybe I hyped it up too much, but, needless to say, I did not hype it up too much at all. We both fell so in love with the city. In fact, we started, you know, exploring the idea of like living there, moving there, renting for six months, whatever the case may be. Who knows where that'll go.

But it was a really amazing way to start the year. Um, it was the first like 100% non-working vacation that we've taken together in for sure a year. You know, for sure all of 2021. Um, I deleted slack from my phone. I deleted email from my phone. It was so necessary and I highly recommend it.

Um, I don't know about you, but opening slack or opening my work email... it's like muscle memory for me. So I really did need to like remove all possible work interaction. Um, so that was amazing. That was the good.

And then we did have kind of a nightmare experience trying to get back from Mexico City to Austin. What was supposed to be a very smooth, easy non-stop flight—which is kind of a rarity when you're flying in and out of the Austin airport, so I was very excited about that—but long story short, we missed our flight to no fault of our own.

Um, it was the first time I've ever actually missed a flight like ever in my life, so that was like, sort of, it was very stressful. But anyway, we're back. We're here. I'm kind of using this week to like get recalibrated and, um, so far so good.

Happy to be back with my pup Murphy. Happy to be back at home. Certainly missing Mexico city, certainly missing vacation, but I think 2022 is going to be a year. That's about all I can say.

With all that being said, happy New Year. Welcome back to the podcast. Today's episode is going to be a good one as always, but this one I've actually had kind of under my belt for some time and we've been kind of saving it for the right time. And I think, I think now is it because we're talking about accountability. All right.

Now, before we get there, let me kind of tee this up for you a little bit, because we actually have a very fun quiz that's designed to help you discover your unlock for sustainable healthy habits.

All right. And this is kind of what inspired this episode, because, you know, working with observing, speaking, interacting with so many women I've come across these distinct patterns in terms of what tends to get in the way of creating more balance, more consistency, especially when we're talking about nutrition, relationship with food, movement, all that good stuff.

And so this quiz is really just a fun way for you to get clear on those barriers so that you can take your challenges and turn them into your cheat code BOM, BOM, BOM, big deal. Okay. So if you haven't taken it already, pause this episode—I promise you it'll be worth it. Head to weflourish.com/quiz, it will also be linked in our show notes, and it take it for yourself before diving into today's episode. Okay. So I will wait. Pause, go to weflourish.com/quiz.

Okay, cool. You've got your unlock. Beautiful. Now to get to today's focus and topic, let's dive into the key that will unlock healthy habits for over 50% of our quiz takes. Okay. Over 50% of quiz takers—and that means there's a 50/50 chance that it's you too—their unlock is accountability. That is their key to unlocking sustainable, healthy habits. And if you're in that 50%, that means that your unlock for creating consistency and sustainability in your healthy habits it's accountability. All right?

So in a 2011 paper called "Supportive Accountability," accountability is defined as, "the implicit or explicit expectation that an individual may be called upon to justify his or her actions or inaction." Now to put that even more simply, accountability is really all about taking responsibility for your actions and their consequences relative to expectations. Okay. So at work, the expectation is that you show up on time. So if you're late and you miss an important meeting, being accountable means taking responsibility for that mistake and also any repercussions that may occur as a result. All right? So today we're going to dig into this kind of big idea of accountability and I'm going to break it down into different types so that you can get an even better understanding of how to use this tool, because that's how I like to think about it as a tool, how you can use this tool in your favor. Okay?

Now, when I say types of accountability, I'm actually referring to two distinct frameworks. So the first framework was widely popularized by Gretchen Rubin and the second framework emerges from accountability theory. All right?

So let's start with the first. And the first framework dissects accountability into two different types: internal versus external. Now you may have come across this idea by way of Gretchen Rubin and her four tendencies work. So I'm going to have some of that linked down below.

But basically to summarize, she found that when it comes to accountability and expectations people tend to fall into one of four categories... Upholder: an upholder meets inner and outer expectations. Number two, obliger, meets outer expectations while resisting inner expectations. Number three, rebel, resists both outer and inner expectations. And a questioner resists outer expectations while meeting inner expectations.

Most people are obligers. They meet outer expectations while resisting inner expectations. Said otherwise, obligersstruggle to hold themselves accountable, but they excel when they have external accountability.

Now, let me give you some examples to kind of see if you fall into this category. And if you fall into this category, then certainly this episode is for you. Um, and perhaps we should do some other, uh, episodes on how to create accountability if you fall outside of the obliger category.

So, let's see. Your probably an obliger if you never miss appointments like therapy or personal training appointments or doctor's appointments, dentist appointments. You never bail on your friends, your family members. You meet and perhaps exceed deadlines at work. But when it comes to the promises you make to yourself, like I'm going to clean the house this week, or I'm going to go on a walk three times this week, or I'm going to meal prep every Sunday. That's where you tend to fall short. So if any or all of that kind of resonated with you, chances are you're an obliger. You meet outer expectations while resisting or struggling with inner expectations.

And just so we are abundantly clear: there is nothing wrong with this. This is not a personality flaw. It's not a failure of your character. It's not weakness. It's just a neutral fact. It is a description of a pattern of behavior. But, oh my goodness, if I haven't seen and heard countless women berating themselves for struggling with internal accountability..

And listen, if that internal criticism worked, if it helped you to show up every day as the person you most want to be, then... listen, that's what this podcast would be about. I'd be all about it. I run a company called Flourish. One of my personal values is growth. I am, you know, all about moving forward up and at 'em, all right. The problem is that feeling guilty or ashamed for making and then breaking those promises to yourself, it doesn't actually do you any good. It does not help you keep those promises. It does not help you be better. Feel better. All it does is perpetuate the cycle. Okay?

So if in the face of recognizing that you struggle with internal accountability, my suggestion is not that you just give up. It's not that you just let that be the case and you give up on making promises to yourself because you're just going to break them.

If this is you, then I suggest that you hack it. That you make this work for you rather than against you, right? Work with your strengths rather than trying to reverse your weaknesses. Okay? This is what I mean when I say that your challenge actually becomes your cheat code.

So again, if this resonates with you, if you find that you do really well with external accountability but you struggle with internal accountability, here's where you can do what I'll call in this context, a life audit, and figure out where you need to or where you want to insert some external accountability.

So ask yourself two questions: is this thing important to me? And do I struggle to hold myself accountable? Again, number one: is this thing important to me? Does this thing, meaning this behavior, this habit, does this align with my values? Does this align with my internal should? If yes, then proceed to question two.

Do I struggle to hold myself accountable to doing this thing or engaging in this habit or doing this behavior? If the answer is yes, then bingo. This is where you insert external accountability. Now this external accountability can be delivered in many different ways. Okay? It could be as simple as like a phone reminder or a habit tracker.

Um, maybe you rely on a community like a Facebook group or a Slack channel. Um or maybe you actually kind of assign a friend or your partner to be your accountability partner. Let's say it's, you know, accountability for going to the gym or riding the Peloton or meal prepping every Sunday. Okay?

Those are all fantastic options, but I will say is that what the research shows that, at least in the case of digital health interventions, human support greatly and significantly enhances adherence. Much more so than automated systems, like, you know, email reminders and notifications. Things like that. Okay. And if you want an even greater shot at adherence, actually doing the things that you want to do, then beyond human support, the human support should actually come from someone who you recognize as a trusted expert, okay?

So anecdotally I've absolutely seen this to be the case for our Flourish members. A lot of our members have, you know, tried to turn their friends or partners into accountability buddies. And I find that it tends to go one of two ways. Option one or way one is that it just fizzles out. It just fizzles out. Or number two is that it adds unnecessary tension in the relationship due to perceived judgment.

And let me be the first to say that I have been there many, many times specifically when I asked Jon, my dear sweet husband, to hold me accountable to basically anything. Um, but certainly like, you know, I've had moments where I say, "Hey, Let's create a workout routine," "let's, you know, help me make sure I'm actually taking the time to exercise or read or whatever the case may be." And then when he does literally the exact thing I asked him to do, I get so pissed off and so defensive.

But I've tried the same thing with my executive coach because we talk a lot about self-care and putting myself before work and things like that. So it's, it's relevant here and she is certainly an expert. When she does that, when she checks in on my self-care habits, it's not a problem. I don't get defensive. I don't get insecure. I don't feel like I'm being judged because that is the nature and the dynamic of our relationship.

She is an expert and that is one of the things that I've hired her to do is to hold me accountable. And we've developed a rapport and a relationship, and, you know, her style suits my style, right? So there's other kind of relational aspects that need to be in check for this accountability to work. But again, if we look at the research, having external accountability in the form of a human expert that you trust greatly enhances adherence. Okay?

So this actually segues quite nicely into the second accountability framework that I want to share with you, okay? Now, as I mentioned, these are distinct frameworks, but it's kind of fun to think about how they can be mixed and matched to suit you. All right? And of course, I'm speaking here to what suits most people, because I'm not actually talking to you.

I'm, spoiler alert, sitting in my office talking to myself. So I'm hoping that this applies to you, dear listener. Um, but if not, shoot me a DM, and let's talk it out and I'd love to kind of think through this with you. Okay. But anyway.

The second framework that I want to talk with you about emerged from accountability theory. And this framework states that the two types of accountability are outcome accountability and process accountability. And what the research consistently finds is that process accountability increases the completion of desired behaviors, while outcome accountability has primarily negative effects, including lower adherence and overall greater distress. Okay.

And a lot of this has to do with the fact that while you can influence the outcomes of your health behaviors, you don't have total control here. Right? And that can be said for most outcomes. Maybe the work that you're doing has nothing to do with health. It's about getting a promotion. Right? You can have an influence on that outcome, but at the end of the day, there are so many factors outside of your control here. Right? But when it comes to your process, your actions, your habits, you are much more firmly planted in the driver's seat, okay? So again, process accountability yields better results than outcome accountability, which actually has negative effects.

So if we zoom out and put this altogether, when it comes to staying accountable to the behaviors that you most want to engage in in order to be, or to become your best self, external process accountability from a human expert gets the gold star. Let me say that again: external process accountability from a human expert.

So rather than holding yourself accountable, having someone else hold you accountable. And that someone is indeed a someone. It is a human being who you see as a trusted expert. And that trusted expert is not necessarily going to hold you accountable to achieving outcomes, but rather is holding you accountable to engaging in behaviors repeatedly over time. The human expert is holding you accountable to a process that you co-create together.

And with all this being said, it will probably come as no surprise to you when I say that this is exactly what we provide inside the Flourish membership, because we kind of know what we're doing.

So aside from the community support and the evidence-based education that we provid in Flourish, accountability is truly our bread and butter. And I would even actually go a step further and get more specific here and say individualized accountability is our bread and butter, because your process is going to look different from someone else's process based on you! Your, your history, your values, your goals, your life circumstances.

And I think that also needs to be accounted for when we're discussing matters of accountability. Okay? So what we do, we partner with you to determine your growth path, your areas of focus or, said otherwise, you know, your best habits based on, again, your personal history, your values and your goals. And then we help hold you accountable to keeping those promises that you make to yourself.

And this probably goes without saying, but again, I want to be very explicit here that this accountability... it is always done with love and is always done with kindness. It is never done with judgment or shame. And that's not only because it's kind and nice and feels good, but that's, again, the approach that's actually backed by the literature. Shame is not an effective behavior change tool. Okay?

When it comes to healthy habits, especially non-diet nutrition and pursuing a healthy relationship with food and a positive relationship with your body. I want you to, again, ask yourself the two magic questions. Is this area of life important to me? Number two, do I struggle to hold myself accountable to the promises I make to myself in this area?

If you answered yes to question number one and question number two, then you know what to do. Head to the show notes, sign up for your Flourish membership today. You will be paired with a coach who's going to guide you through this and help hold you accountable to the process.

All right, y'all. I hope you enjoyed this episode. I hope you learned a thing or two about accountability. I know I'm certainly taking this heart as I think about the areas of my life that I'm focusing on. And I will see you next week with another new episode. Bye y'all.

Claire Siegel: Thank you so much for joining me for today's episode of the Flourish podcast. If you enjoyed it, please take a second to leave us a five-star review or better yet, share it with a friend. And if you're ready to start your own journey to get healthy for good with accountability from expert coaches and the support of an incredible community, head to the show notes to get started on your Flourish journey.

I'll see you in the next episode.