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The Accountability Mirror

Today's tip is all about how to hold yourself accountable. It reminds us that leadership is a relationship and sometimes that leadership is an art in which we try to learn and relearn how to become a leader.

The Tip

Do you ever look at yourself in the mirror?

I mean, really look at yourself? Not just at your beard or your hair or your make-up?

Do you look into your eyes, as you would into the eyes of another person?

Today's tip is something you can action at least twice a day, possibly more. Taking advantage of some time you already have. The time when you brush your teeth.

(You do brush twice a day I hope? What a relief.)

Tomorrow morning, what I want you to do is this.

While you are brushing your teeth, shaving, washing or doing your makeup, look deep into your own eyes and ask,

What am I going to do today to meet my goals?

And then at the end of the day I want you to ask,

Did I do what I said I would do to achieve my goals?

Sounds simple, right? But it isn't. And that's because I want you to look into your own eyes and be really, really honest.

Hold your own gaze and ask yourself the questions.

Don't be afraid to criticise yourself. To give yourself a talking to.

For example, I was recently trying to follow a training plan to become an ultra runner. One day my inner dialog went like this:

Did you do what you said you'd do to achieve your goals?


Partially, that's not a yes, Stephen.

No then, I didn't. I did the training I said I would do today. That went well.

But? I ate a load of rubbish, crisps & chocolate, and a lazy processed dinner.

Anything else?

I totally failed to meditate and to stretch like I wanted to.

Which means...You let yourself down Locky.

Keep doing this and you'll be too fat and too slow to achieve your goals.

And you'll stress yourself out by not meditating.

That's right, today you failed. But tomorrow?

Tomorrow I'll do it. I'll do it all.

Does that sound brutal?

It's not, it's me being accountable. Accountable to the person who has my best interests at heart. Accountable to myself. Privately.

And that's not the end of the conversation either.

Whenever I do this I try to be completely honest and I let myself use pejorative words like failed, useless, stupid, dumb, lazy or whatever captures by feelings. I want to get them out.

But then, importantly, I always end with this,

I love you.

You are not inferior to anyone.

You are not superior to anyone.

I believe in you.

You've got this.

And then I literally high five myself in the mirror.

Photo by Zan on Unsplash

(There's a major part of the introverted Stephen who is cringing 😆 at writing this to you right now, but it's true.)

Taking this to the next level

This practice is partially inspired by David Goggins, author of Can't Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds. (The audiobook version has amazing bonus conversations if you are interested.)

His version of the technique also involves writing down and pasting your goals on or around your mirror. That way you can be very specific with yourself.

You also can't give yourself wriggle room in the evening if your goal is open to interpretation.

How it works

This technique works on several levels:

  • It is a form of self-coaching. Twice a day (or more). For free.

  • It grounds us in the moment, allowing us to focus on our own needs, deeply.

  • It keeps us tracking towards long term goals.

  • It gives attention to short-term goals.

  • It allows us to flush out negative thoughts about ourselves.

  • It helps us to commit to who we really want to be.

David Goggins tends towards a searing level of self-criticism. That might work for you, but it isn't in-character for me.

And so, I think it is important to include the closing, positive, holding statements. Oh, and the high-five.

Why? Well there is lots of evidence that this technique (popularised by Mel Robbins in The High 5 Habit) boosts dopamine and has a positive influence on self image.

In combination with the honesty, and the deep look into your own eyes, it has a powerful multiplying impact on your wellbeing and your capacity to achieve your goals.

So, when will you give it a try?

Thought so, the next time you look in the mirror right?

In fact, you could pop to the bathroom right away, couldn't you?

Just be careful not to talk out-loud 🗣 if there are people around.

They might think you have someone in there with you.

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