The Power of Accountability, Martin Seligman and 10,000 Steps

Learn why accountability is a powerful way to unleash your productivity.

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Martin Seligman is the father of positive psychology.

As one of the world’s preeminent psychologists, his research and theories have transformed the field. And yet, despite his accomplishments, Seligman still seeks the approval of his colleagues. In fact, he does so on a daily basis.

Every night, Seligman reports to four of his peers whether or not he walked 10,000 steps that day. If he did, he can go to sleep peacefully. If he didn’t, he has to make up the remaining steps before midnight.

Why would a man who was once president of the American Psychological Association subject himself to this?

It’s called accountability. It works.

And if you’re an entrepreneur, accountability is a powerful way to unleash your productivity.


Why Hold Yourself Accountable?

The beauty of accountability lies in the simplicity of the concept.

When you work in an office, you’re accountable to someone. It doesn’t matter how high up on the chain you are — when you take care of your responsibilities, you get validation.

But how crappy does it feel to tell your team you haven’t done what you’re supposed to do?

If you’re an entrepreneur, the very thought of reporting to someone might make you cringe.  But think about it this way: Without a team or board of directors, who has your back? Who’s there to make sure you don’t get derailed?


Three Types of People

In my decade-plus as a life coach, I’ve realized that there are three types of people:

  1. Type1: The first is the super-organized, systematic go-getter.
  2. Type 2: The second is the lazy bum who has no motivation.
  3. Type 3: The third is anyone in between — which encompasses most of Earth’s population.

If you’re Type 1 or Type 2, you’re either too far ahead or too far behind to have to report to someone.

But if you’re Type 3, accountability can be a game changer.

Though I’d like to think of myself as Type 1, I know I’m actually Type 3. I can get stuff done, no problem — but, like most people, I get sidelined by everyday distractions.

Over the years, I’ve discovered that when I’m accountable to someone, it’s much easier to stay on track. The same is true for my clients. Accountability forces you to cut out time-wasters and focus on what’s essential.

When that happens, your productivity goes through the roof.


Why Accountability Works

Here’s what makes Martin Seligman’s 10,000-step program an effective one:

  1. It’s a simple daily task.
  2. Its evaluation is objective (Did your pedometer reach 10,000 today: yes or no?).
  3. Seligman is part of a group of colleagues who share the same goal.
  4. The whole group has to report back every day in a visible way.


How is a psychologist with a pedometer relevant to you as an entrepreneur?


Well, think about some of the critically important tasks that would make a huge difference in your business if you did them every day. For example, let’s say your everyday goals are to:

  • Write at least one company blog post.
  • Reach out to at least one potential business partner.
  • Block off 30 minutes for client attraction activities.
  • Make five sales cold calls.
  • Have an accountability call with your team.

Now, anyone who runs her own business knows how easy it is to put tasks like these on the back burner. That’s what happens when something urgent comes up, and something urgent comes up every single day.

But with a system of accountability in place, getting sidetracked is not an option. You’ll do what you have to do without compromise — which frees up your energy and attention to handle any emergencies that arise, or better yet, go surfing, go on a hot date, or call a friend you haven’t spoken to in a year.

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