Many of my clients really struggle with holding themselves accountable and following through with their goals for our yoga therapy sessions. I think we are all guilty at times with letting the ball drop on getting the things done that we know will benefit us. It is usually a struggle with time, poor habitual patterns, or a lack of motivation and energy behind achieving the outcome we want. In my own personal life, I set plenty of goals, but don’t always achieve them because I don’t hold myself responsible for the things that only I have control over and can truly change. I can’t expect anyone to do the work for me. So if we struggle with this as yoga therapists, as humans, how can we expect our clients to follow through? If we really want our clients to feel better in their bodies and have given them tools they need to do that, but they don’t utilize them, then what good are those tools really?
We are raised with accountability partners; our parents, our peers, our teachers. When we become adults, we lose those people who motivate us to get things done. We are expected to hold ourselves accountable, but often times we don’t, and because of it our relationships can suffer, our health declines, or our life is in turmoil and only then do we find the motivation to do something. We are seeing this play out in our current culture. A culture of blame, a culture of wanting everything for free and wanting everything to come easily. Unfortunately, we have to stop playing the blame game of “if I didn’t have these parents,” “if I had a more supportive spouse,” “if I had the money,” “if I had the time,” “if I wasn’t ____,” you fill in the blank. Life is what we make of it, and our pain isn’t going to get better without work. Our hurt, fear, anxiety, stress, grief, unfortunately aren’t going to magically disappear. These sufferings (dukkha) will only dissipate when we hold ourselves accountable to change our situations by doing something about it.
How do we make this happen and truly hold ourselves accountable? How do we teach our clients when we end our session and send them on their way, that what we have taught them only holds value if they utilize it in everyday life? Here’s a list I have compiled to share with my clients on how to hold one’s self accountable and commit to results.
- Change your mindset. If you are in a fixed mindset, that this is just how things are, you aren’t in a mindset for real honest change. If you have a growth mindset, you like challenge, you see failures as ways to improve. Those with a growth mindset are ready to make a change and do what it takes to get there. What is your why? Why do you want to feel better? What exactly do you want to change?
- What you think, you become. -Buddha This really is true. Notice how you talk to yourself. How do you talk about yourself to other people? Are you constantly bashing yourself? Who do you hang around with? Who keeps your time? What are you reading? What are you watching or listening to? Start hanging around with the people who have the qualities you wish to have. Hang around with people who have a growth mindset. If you only ever hear from negative people stuck in their own cycle or fixed mindset, if you aren’t hanging around with the people who will build you up and fire you up, you will find yourself running on the hamster wheel. If you aren’t reading the right books, watching the right tv shows, and finding yourself mixing with others who are accomplishing their goals, you will get nowhere fast. Notice the company you keep and change it if it needs to be changed.
- Set some real attainable goals; SMART goals. Goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. If you aren’t truly passionate about wanting to change and setting goals that are actually accomplishable, you will quit way before the finish line is in sight. It doesn’t have to be complicated. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
- Write down your goals and create a personal mission statement. Writing down your goals and creating a personal mission statement says you are serious about this commitment. Sign and date the bottom of this mission statement as a contract to show yourself you are committed to making a change and accomplishing these goals. This provides you a focus and a vision and holds YOU accountable to achieving it.
- Create a schedule or habit. Make your new habits a priority. Plan ahead and stick to it. Your new habits aren’t automatically going to fall into place in your current life. You have to prioritize it. You have to find a time to fit it into your schedule, possibly rearranging some things or dropping old habits to make the time or money to accomplish your new goals and develop a lifestyle that is willing to change. If it helps place sticky notes around your home and work space or set timers on your phone to hold you accountable and help you accomplish your daily goals. Frequent exposure to what you are trying to accomplish can be helpful in making sure the daily tasks or new habits don’t go forgotten.
- Create Micro-goals. If you still aren’t holding yourself accountable to make the change and succeed, try setting micro-goals. Goals that are easily achievable that take a minimal amount of time. By creating a micro-goal you can achieve each day, you create a sustainable habit towards bigger change. These micro-goals can be accomplished with less effort and are rewardable. For example: doing 5 minutes of a yoga therapy practice verses a 30-minute practice daily.
- Reward yourself for small achievements. Accomplished a micro-goal or a step on the way to success? Give yourself a reward. Rewards will be different for each of us. Maybe you buy yourself a treat. Maybe you celebrate with a friend. Maybe you literally pat yourself on the back and say “Great JOB.” Whatever you do to celebrate, give yourself credit for doing some hard work and achieving even the smallest success. You deserve it. This is the way to achieving our goals, one small bite at a time!
- Review your own personal performance on a regular basis. Are you giving yourself a gold star? Being too hard on yourself? Or are you truly slacking? At the end of the day, only you are to blame if you have the tools and don’t take the time use them. Are your goals too difficult and unachievable right now? Do you need to simplify or change your plan of attack? It’s ok to adjust and modify. Maybe even rewrite your personal mission statement and re-sign following the SMART goal guideline if that’s what needs to happen.
- Get an accountability partner. Some of us will require someone who is helping us stay on track and achieve our goals. Pick someone who has more drive and determination than you do, who isn’t an enabler. You know that friend who says “Hey, you worked hard today why don’t you just skip a day? It’ll be fine!” Sometimes friends aren’t enough. Sometimes we need to commit by paying for an accountability partner. Some examples of accountability partners we pay for in order to succeed in achieving our goals: Yoga Therapist, Life Coach, Business Coach, Nutritionist, Personal Trainer, or Psychotherapist. It is the literal job of these people to hold you accountable in achieving your personal goals and they are paid to do exactly that. Sometimes the action of a monetary transaction, this passing of energy, is what we need to get our behinds in gear. These people are paid to ask the right questions, be completely honest and open with you and not sugar coat it, help you to prioritize your day and your goals into something that is quantifiable and achievable and change those goals through the process if necessary. This is your team! Use them for honest feedback.
Honestly, at the end of the day, only the individual who wants to achieve the goal can do the work. Only YOU can make the conscious effort to change your life. It’s not going to be easy, but itisrewarding. Let holding yourself accountable become your new passion. You won’t regret it.
Article contributed by Sarah Cummins, RYT500, E-RYT200, YACEP, YWT, CPT, Pain Care Yoga teacher, and Yoga Therapist in training with Inner Peace Yoga Therapy. Sarah Cummins is owner of Waterfall Yoga LLC, and an experienced yoga teacher who empowers individuals to embody their own intuitive ability to be free of physical and emotional pain and obtain ultimate healing through the holistic practices of yoga. As a military spouse, currently stationed in Wichita, KS, Sarah has over 1800 hours of global teaching experience. Her dream is to one day open up Waterfall Yoga Therapy and Retreat Center on her land nestled in the smoky hills with the sounds of her majestic waterfall cascading nearby.