When a client I was working with a few years ago told me he was finally ready to start writing the book he’d been talking about writing for almost 20 years, I suggested he make a Public Display of Accountability (PDA) to give him an incentive to stick with his commitment. I suggested that by telling his peers of his plans he would achieve several things to support him on this journey; his supporters would encourage him and congratulate him for each milestone reached, his inner voice would tell him that he had to do it now because he’d look like a quitter if he didn’t and his potential publisher and readers might see his plans and he’d be marketing the book before he’d even written it.
I am pleased to report that this approach worked well for him and his book was written in less than four months and published within twelve. The fact that he’d never put accountability in place before was a key reason he’d never taken action and by not taking action he told his own self-belief (of lack of it) that he was failing to write his book for yet another year and this was proof of his continuing failure to take action. Writing the book has allowed him to discard this un-helpful pattern and create a new, positive habit with accountability built in as a key support mechanism.
It can feel uncomfortable when we decide to share an idea and our intentions around it, even with people we trust. Often, there is a historical situation in which we were rejected, either on a personal level, or in a work situation that felt like it was about something we were lacking (whether that was experience or talent, it will have knocked our confidence) and so the very suggestion that telling people what we are planning can feel fraught with danger and we’ll come up with a thousand and one reasons to talk ourselves out of it. And of course the result is we don’t take action.
I look at PDAs as a commitment to myself and to the belief that the idea or project is worth the effort. The commitment to myself is to give the idea / goal / product (this can be anything from running a marathon to launching a blog to building a house) its best possible chance of success; I know that I stick to a plan better when I am sharing the steps along the path with others, so by putting this accountability in place I am more likely to dedicate the time and energy required.
I also see PDAs as a way to see how people react to my intention; if nobody is interested in my blog about chocolate (seriously, could that happen?) then I may decide to do some market research to identify whether it’s my message or my demographic that needs re-thinking. Being public about my idea, my progress and even my challenges and failures along the way, will all help me connect with my potential audience, and create a loyal support base who I can turn to for honest feedback.
And by the way, yes, I do know that these Public Displays of Accountability can come back to haunt people. I believe however, that if your intentions are good and you find part way through that you’re going down the wrong path, it’s okay to say ‘this commitment is changing. I discovered this wasn’t the right choice / goal / project / company for me. The great thing is, if you’ve taken people on the journey of this discovery, you’ll now find you have indeed got people around you who are ready to offer help, support, opinions (some may be hard to hear) and most of all, their time – for you.
What have you been promising yourself you’ll start for a long time that a PDA could help you get done? I’d love to be one of your supporters if you’ll share your journey.