How to Reach Your Goals When You Have No Willpower

What keeps you accountable to your goals when your motivation fails you?

If you said nothing, you might find that you’re having a hard time reaching your goals.

The good news is that this is an easy fix.

We know that big goals require you to build new habits and we also know that building new habits is uncomfortable as I’ve laid out herehere and here. The quick fix to a lack of willpower is to add accountability around those new goals.

In order to achieve your goals, you’re going to have to get uncomfortable… This is nothing new. It’s easier to stay in bed at 5am than go to the gym, play on Facebook when you’re supposed to be making phone calls or going out when you should be sleeping… and it’s wayyyy easier to say ‘I’ll just start tomorrow’.

Sometimes, your big why just isn’t enough. No matter how many vision boards you make or no matter how much you intend to do it, you just can’t find the willpower to do it.

… But when you have a deadline or someone to report to, you’re a whole lot less likely to slack off.

Introducing… Drum roll please!


You might have just cringed a little (like I did when I first learned about it)…

… or you might be thinking something along the lines of:

  • I don’t need accountability
  • My bank account keeps me accountable

If you said the first, I mean this in the most humble and compassionate way possible – that’s all ego. If you didn’t need accountability, you would have achieved your goals already. We all need some sort of accountability.

Embrace it my friend, don’t fight it. Our willpower is finite so accountability steps in where willpower fails.

If you said the second, having your bank account as an accountability partner will make sure that your bills are paid but it will keep you in a state of stress, unfulfillment (because you’re only living to pay bills rather than living to reach your goals) and you will likely only do enough to meet your requirements (which means you will continue living paycheck to paycheck).

There’s a lot of negativity around the word ‘accountability’ because so many people go about it the wrong way.

If your way of holding people accountable is harassing them about why they did or didn’t do something (or people are doing that to you), how is that perceived?

Yep, like an attack.

And then what happens?

Yep, you guessed it. They (or you) will become defensive almost every single time. There’s a different way to approach accountability. The key is allowing the person being held accountable to take ownership of their actions or lack thereof and you are just the person helping them see that.

What are you going to be held accountable for?

The first thing you’ll need to decide is what you’re going to be held accountable for.

You can choose to be held accountable to a specific activity or to a specific result. I like to be held accountable to consistent activities over the result for a few reasons…

First, setting accountability for the result can put you in a state of “by any means necessary”… and contrary to popular belief, that’s not always a positive place to be in. When you’re willing to do anything, that’s how you get yourself in trouble.

The most effective way to decide on your most important goal right now.

Seriously, what’s your MOST important goal? I know they all seem important so ask yourself which goal will make everything else easier?

Got it?

Awesome. Now, ask yourself what ONE activity that you can do (whether that means doing it once or doing it consistently) that you can do to help you reach your goals. Don’t go crazy making commitments that you aren’t going to keep so start with one thing and leave it at that (trust me, this is coming from a true recovering over-committer).

Maybe your goal is to lose twenty pounds. You might decide that you’re going to workout three times a week and you’re going to send a picture every time you’re at the gym so your accountability partner knows that you’re actually there.

What’s the consequence?

Now that you have the activity, you need to decide what happens if you don’t meet your commitments.
Some of the best examples that I’ve seen for accountability (and some of which I’ve participated in) are as follows:

  • Having to send a picture at the gym every morning at 6am and having to write a check to your partner if you don’t make it there five times per week (someone from my office did this with me, he slacked off and I bought a pair of shoes with his money. I rubbed it in his face for a few weeks and he stopped slacking off at the gym)
  • Telling your kids that you will take them to Disney if you hit your specific goal. Kids are great accountability partners because they’ll be on your case to make sure you did what you said you’ll do and you never want to let your kids down.
  • Writing a check to an organization whose values you strongly disagree with and setting a specific goal (say writing a certain amount of pages or talking to a specific number of people). If you don’t hit your numbers, your accountability partner gets to send the check to the organization that you disagree with. This one is awesome because even when you’re not in the mood to hit your commitments, that voice in your head going “I don’t want my money going to ___ organization” is loud enough to get your butt moving.

There’s a million ways to hold someone accountable and it doesn’t always have to be money involved (like the kid example above), but I find that it’s a great motivator. No one wants to have a check cashed for not doing something, especially if it’s for something that you don’t agree with.

Who’s going to hold you accountable?

The people that you allow to hold you accountable should be someone who you respect and don’t want to let down, not someone who is going to let you off easy.

If you’re going to use the check example, don’t write it to someone who you wouldn’t mind them spending your money. I know that sounds weird, but hear me out.

If your commitment is to go to the gym three times a week and you write your daughter a check for $100, when it’s time to actually go to the gym, that little voice in the back of your head will go, “it’s your daughter… You’d give her $100 if she needed it anyways.”

Accountability should HURT if you don’t hit your commitments, so make sure it goes to someone you don’t want spending your money.

Make sure it’s someone you trust and who won’t cash your check unless you fail to hit your commitments, just don’t give it to someone who you would give money to anyways.

There’s a guy in my office who wrote me a check and his commitment was to workout 3x/week. I let him off the hook once and the second time that he missed, I went and bought myself a pair of shoes.

The next day, I went into the office wearing the shoes. He didn’t know that I bought shoes with his money and he complimented them…. So I told him he bought them for me and then rubbed it in for like a week. He hasn’t missed accountability since 😉

Accountability Questions

Here are the six accountability questions.

Whether you’re working on a team, are an employer or a parent, these come in handy.

By asking these questions, the answerer is forced to self-reflect and answer for themselves.

They won’t feel attacked but will get clarity on their progress and it will help make it clear for them what their next steps need to be.

  • What was your goal?
  • How did you do?
  • How do you feel about that?
  • Based on how you did, what’s your new goal?
  • Is there anything that might keep you from doing that?
  • If you needed training or support to do this, what might it be?

Every time that I use these questions to guide my accountability conversations, they’re massively impactful and we both walk away with a ton of clarity and ready to take on the world.

Ready to put some accountability around your goals?