Three and a half months ago we welcomed with open arms the promise of 2012.  “This is our year,” we told ourselves.  “2012 will be different,” we promised.  We made our New Years Resolutions and popped champagne to celebrate with friends and family.  We’re excited, we’re ambitious, and we’re hungry.  Bring it on 2012, you ain’t got nuthin’.

Then the hangover hits.

The hangover stands in the way, convinces us our goals aren’t important, and tries to keep you from your ultimate success.  The hangover never happens during the party but lies in wait until the adrenaline has worn off and you’ve lost that initial enthusiasm.  At some point or another, your goals are going to be put to the test and you have to decide whether they are really worth the (significant) time, resource, and/or energy investment to get where you want to be.  And that takes motivation.  Lots and lots of persistent, unrelenting, and unwavering motivation.

But where does this motivation come from?  When our motivation falters (and trust me, it will), where do we turn?  In 2012 I’ve finally discovered the world’s greatest motivational tool.


Accountability is the greatest motivation available because it counters the natural tendency for us to “lose our fire” to some degree the longer we work towards a goal without actually completing it.  Accountability takes that motivation and places it outside of ourselves, converting it to an external force that drives us forward.  You’re less likely to quit when you’re accountable and when you’re less likely to quit you’re more likely to succeed.  Imagine that.

Here are three ways that I’ve found to harness motivation through making myself accountable to my own goals.

Write it down

When you write something down that statement becomes, in many ways, permanent.  Even if you cross it out or tear it up, you are actively destroying a piece of your goal.  Psychologically I’ve found that seeing your goals written down forces you to acknowledge them in a way that makes them even more real.  You are accountable to them. No longer are they abstract ideas in your head but they are tangible, explicit goals that you’ve committed to on a deeper level than ever before.  I’d even suggest writing them down in a journal that you keep with you so that you are continually working toward the same goal until you’ve achieved it.

SCRUM Emails

The credit for this one goes out to a good friend of mine in the software industry named Andrew Burke.  While I have no idea what SCRUM actually means (and according to Andrew it’s not even an acronym), the idea is that every week we’ll send an email out that includes 3 major points:

  • What we accomplished the past week
  • What we didn’t accomplish and why (why held us up, stood in the way, etc.)
  • What we hope to accomplish in the coming week

The benefit here is two-fold.  First, as I mentioned before you’re forcing yourself to write down your goals and actively track your success or failure along the path to those goals.  Second, it forces you to explain, on a weekly basis, what you have done in pursuit of those goals.  Once again, you’re accountable to your own success and failure.  The trick here is that you need to exchange these emails with people you respect and whose respect you want.  It can be a lot easier to convince yourself that you had good reasons for abandoning your goals but when you have to articulate that reasoning to your close friends, it can become a lot harder to justify.


I’m a huge fan of having someone in the trenches with you to help push you along.  A running buddy or sparring partner if you’re trying to get in shape.  A business partner to help keep your startup on track.  But collaboration doesn’t always have to be this direct.  Collaborate with friends and colleagues so that when you ask for something they expect something in return.  Think about it this way: if you were going to ask someone for an interview for your blog, would you not follow up with a post?  Even less direct, I recently asked a colleague for help putting together an editorial calendar to help regiment my writing.  You better damn well believe I’m much more motivated to comply with that calendar than if I had put it together myself.  Why?  Because I’m accountable.

Motivation comes in all shapes and sizes and honestly there’s no right or wrong way to go about it. The key isn’t finding what makes your engine run…it’s finding what makes your engine run when your battery is dead and the tank is empty.  It’s acknowledging that reaching your goals requires sacrifice and that those dreams are truly worth the sacrifice.  Motivation can come from anywhere but to harness that motivation through accountability allows you to push through to your goals with the combined support and inspiration of those around you.


One Response to The Greatest Motivation

  1. aberlow says:

    Very thoughtful article. I chose to interpret it as you thanking me for my nagging.

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