Reverse accountability is one of the best tools in the toolbox for achieving your goals

Are you hiding your goals?

A lot of times, especially when we set some goals for big dreams, we keep them under lock and key. Maybe we have a big dream to be a New York Times bestselling author and our best friend doesn’t even know that we can write.

I mean, why be vulnerable and proclaim your big dreams out loud (and possibly publicly fail at them), when you can just tout your success after you’ve gotten the call from Oprah or Random House?

Accountability is the reason. 

But there’s a catch here. Telling too many people can actually hinder your goal achievement.

Psychologists call it social reality. And research has shown that if you’re telling everyone you meet about your big dreams, and receive lots of praise and well wishes (aka dopamine hits of instant gratification), your brain can be tricked into thinking it actually already achieved the goal.

As Derek Sivers says, "Don’t let your mind mistake the talking for the doing".

But accountability is still a critical component in goal achievement. Research on accountability shows that those who have strategic accountability can do better on a task by more than 243% than those who don’t have any accountability (Schlenker et al, 1994). So the trick here is to still use accountability to keep your goals on track all year, but be strategic about it.

Have you ever tried reverse accountability?

Several years ago, I had a coach who challenged me to write everyday. My assignment was to send him proof of my writing (1000 words) daily. If I missed a day, I had to buy him a six-pack of his favorite craft beer.

If I missed a SECOND day of writing, our reverse accountability agreement was that I would have to buy him  dinner at my favorite restaurant and sit there and WATCH him eat. I would not be allowed to eat or drink anything. 

It can be a bit torturous, but IT WORKS

Buying him a six-pack of beer was no big deal in my book, my elephant could easily justify missing a day of writing for a small punishment of buying the beer. But sitting through a 2-hour dinner WATCHING him eat and give me a running commentary on my favorite foods (on my dime), while I just sat on my hands, that was kind of unbearable to imagine. 

Needless to say, this reverse accountability was highly effective. I might have submitted my proof of writing by 11:59pm on several (all?) occasions, but I didn’t miss a SINGLE day of writing in 30 days.


My friend, Jo,  was having some similar accountability issues. The usual reward system was too flimsy for her elephant, so when we were mapping out some goals and corresponding accountability, we upped the reverse accountability ante. 

Jo can’t stand the National Rifle Association, so her reverse accountability goal is that she will have to send $2000 to the NRA if she doesn't do a solo art show in my studio in the next six months.

She has scheduled her show for April 6 and, let me assure you she is cranking out incredible drawings like no one I’ve ever seen. Her perfectionist elephant doesn't stand a chance. She is bound and determined to not write that check to the NRA. (Thank goodness, right?!).

come hell or highwater, Jo Webster, from Strawberry Hill Studios, will be putting her drawings (maybe this one!) in a solo show in my downtown Steamboat studio on April 6 to avoid having to follow through on her unbearable reverse accountability goal!

If you're getting in your own way with follow through on your resolutions, pick your least favorite/most hated charity and have someone make you send a big check to that organization, if you don't follow through on your resolution. Or come up with your own creative and sadistic version of reverse accountability to keep yourself on track this year. 

Here are a few other accountability ideas:

Start or join a mastermind!
A mastermind is a small group of like-minded people who meet regularly to support, challenge, give feedback and keep each other accountable for goals.

In one mastermind I was in a few years ago, I finally stopped procrastinating and got a will and life insurance for my family, organized and purged 20 years of shit out of my garage, auditioned, wrote for and performed in a theatre production, taught a creativity workshop for 17 kids and revamped my entire business.

Even though the members of the mastermind had wildly different aspirations and careers from me, they cheered and challenged me all the way to the finish line. 

Enlist your bestie to keep you accountable or hire a coach

If you enlist your bestie, make sure they won’t let you off the hook. You'll need to keep both of your emotional brains in check so that your bestie doesn't let you back out on your goals when things get hard (because they will be hard, at times). If you don’t already have a coach to help keep you accountable or to help you work through this entire process, I am available and would love to help. Email me if you'd like to chat about what I've got to offer. 

Oh hey there ... I am available to coach you through your big dreams, your little habits, your turtle steps, your crazy elephant and be your accountability partner. Email me for details on what I'm only offering to members of the Right Brain Resolution Revolution.


"Lizzie has an abundance of patience, unique and interesting ideas and an uncanny ability to drill down to the core of who you really are to help you uncover and move towards what you really want."
-Anna C. (coaching client)


This is my turn off the computer and  "go outside for a hike" accountability partner.

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