“As Iron Sharpens Iron”

I was doing so good last year getting back in to shape!  I got a membership to the gym and set goals to lose weight.  I started eating better, too.  On long days at work, I would even pack my clothes, so I would go straight to the gym, or else I would never leave the home.  I even got up early on Saturday mornings!  It was going so well, and then things started to fall apart.  I had set my goals and even put great structures in place.  Yet, while much is said about setting goals with the best of intentions and enthusiasm, the potential failure of them exists similar to failed diets or fitness goals – a lack of accountability.

An old proverb states that, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).  There’s no such thing as a “self-sharpening knife”.  Knives are only sharpened when they are rubbed against iron.  The knife will still cut if it is not sharp, but it won’t be as effective.  It needs to be constantly sharpened in order to do what it was intended!  A large reason diets or fitness goals are abandoned is not due to the best of intentions or a clear plan; they usually fail due to a lack of accountability – someone to sharpen your life.

Accountability and monitoring of goals is vital to the success of any goal.  I constantly ponder the implications of the quote, “If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together”.  Created as relational beings, the ability on monitoring goals and plans cannot exist in isolation.  They aren’t sustainable.  They don’t produce the maximum result.  While some may think a true leader should also serve as their own accountability partner, there is an honest reality in obtaining critical feedback, advice, and encouragement from someone else.  Bottom line: You can’t monitor your own goals!

Therefore, while we are in the middle of summer and plans aren’t finalized for next year, add to your ever-growing “to-do” list the vital need to secure an accountability partner.  A trusted person that will hold you accountable to your goals and provide ongoing feedback and encouragement.  Here are some points to consider in selecting the right accountability partner and setting up yourself for success:

  • Find someone with the similar core beliefs.  Don’t just choose someone because you share the same title.  Every decision is made based on beliefs, and having similar core values provides clarity in your decision-making and thought processes.  The core beliefs can be based on what you belief in your profession, but it goes much deeper.  It may include your religious background.
  • Find someone who you respect.  There will definitely be times when he/she may give feedback you may not want to hear.  It may be easy to dismiss it if there isn’t true respect for that person.  If you choose someone you respect, you will be excited to meet with this person and share your life.
  • Find someone who has the ability to give you critical feedback.  Your best friend may not be the best person to hold you accountable for fear of hurting the friendship.  Find someone who is able to ask deep questions and isn’t afraid to target areas for improvement or advice.
  • Find someone who will encourage you and inspires you.  For this accountability partnership to work, this person should inspire you.  You should be excited to meet with this person; not dread it.  The partnership should be equal in this area – no egos or one-sided praise here.  You should leave your time with this person inspired to move forward – not feel defeated or shamed.
  • Make sure you include your family, health, and spiritual goals in the dialogue.  Todd Gongwer’s book Lead…For God’s Sake drives home this very point.  If you really want to be productive, you have to consider your whole self.  When we focus only on work goals, other areas of life become severed.  To remain healthy and productive, every area of our lives must be considered.  Just like a fitness goal, more exercise won’t help if you keep eating junk food.
  • Invest at least one hour every two weeks.  Like any of goal-setting strategy, regularly check-ins are a must.  If we are not deliberate in blocking real time to meet, it will provide the intended results.  I purposely stated this time schedule, because I have seen the results from overt planning.  I have also seen failure occur with nebulous scheduling.  This has to be a non-negotiable when you set up this partnership.

As you consider the points above, it may be possible people come to your mind that you feel hold these qualities.  My fear is that you may not at first.  To provide relief, note that this person doesn’t have to be in the same profession or classification of your role.  There might be just as many positives in having someone outside the profession asking questions from a different perspective.  To that end, consider approaching someone from another employer.  This may help with the confidently that will be necessary as well.

Goals without monitoring or accountability are merely dreams.  Wake up an hour earlier for coffee or a walk and meet with a trusted friend twice a month.  Meet for lunch or even dinner.  Consider this the best investment of your time, and keep it protected from other meetings.  There’s a lot of truth in a verse in the Bible:  “Let us not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).

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