Sending regular updates to an accountability partner can double your chances of success at achieving any goal.
That’s one of the reasons why we provide a support group in Drinker’s Helper. It can be a natural place to report on progress of setbacks, set specific short term goals, and keep each other accountable.
But for now, we wanted to clarify how an accountability partnership can help, and why it doesn’t in some cases, so that yours work out for you.
Here’s why an accountability partner can be helpful:
The potential social shame of failure can motivate us to take action. This is definitely part of the reason accountability partnerships can work. People who shared their goals with others in the study linked above did do better than those who kept them to themselves.
You’re forced to recognize progress you might otherwise miss when you check in. It’s easy to lose sight of small progress and beat ourselves up for not being perfect. But a partner who’s more objective can see how you’re doing over time, and may notice positive signs you miss.
Quality checkins can help you not only see progress but understand why you are or are not making progress. If you have to explain to someone else why you didn’t meet your goals, you’re forced to really reflect on what might have caused it, instead of sweeping uncomfortable truths under the rug.
Here’s how to screw up an accountability partnership:
Set unrealistic and/or vague goals. This one is fairly obvious, but if you set a goal of “doing better than I was,” you can let yourself get away with a lot of gray area drinking. Is it 2 drinks, or 4 that you set out to have today? Keep it specific. But also, keep it reasonable. It’s not only difficult to go cold turkey if you’re a heavy drinker - it’s actually quite dangerous. Consult a doctor if you’ve been drinking heavily or consistently, before making changes.
Share your goal, but don’t follow up. Here’s the problem: people may praise you just for setting a goal, not for doing any real work. You got the praise you came for! Now you don’t have to put the effort in. Yikes. Also, praise you get when you set a goal is about you as a person (e.g., “You’re so awesome for aiming high!”) rather than about your process (e.g., “You’re so smart to avoid your triggering situations.”). One study showed people who received praise for their intelligent process were more motivated to keep trying toward a goal than those who were praised for who they are. So don’t accept praise just for setting your goal, but for actually showing progress.
Don’t stick to a specific time to check in. If you’re not in a routine, you’ll avoid checking in when you have bad news to share. It’s easy for those partnerships to slip into nonexistence. Check in at a good time for you. Sunday morning, anyone?
Choose someone you don’t like as your accountability partner. If you resent the monitoring, you’re less likely to keep it up, or feel compelled to be honest. If you care about your partner, you’ll not only show up but want to help them with their struggles too.
That’s all for today. We hope you find the accountability you’re searching for, and we think Drinker’s Helper can help you get there. We not only provide a support group, but drink tracking, insights, and a library of over 100 chat-based exercises to help you beat urges to drink and strengthen your motivation to change. Try it today!