4 Steps to Achieve Personal Accountability with SMART Goals

While pursuing your dreams, it can be overwhelming to tackle the amount of work. Making a plan is the most effective way to stay personally accountable. Yet, knowing how much you can take on may be difficult at first. It can feel daunting when you fail to achieve the smaller steps or easily slip into procrastination. Setting SMART goals to ensure you are able to handle the work while progressing toward your dreams.

What is Personal Accountability?

Personal accountability, or self-accountability, is when you accept the consequences of your actions, reflect on what worked or didn’t, and move forward with a new plan. It can sound daunting to always accept your mistakes. Company culture so easily slips into cycles of blame and punishment that accountability is used like an officer’s interrogation lamp. In reality, accountability is about creating a learning environment for you and others.

Staying personally accountable has many advantages that you may miss out on if you avoid it. One major benefit is strengthening your relationship with friends, family, and coworkers. Accepting and adjusting your actions shows others that you want to be there for yourself and others. It builds trust. Accountability also motivates you to do better, increases productivity, and sets realistic expectations.

Accountable SMART Goals

SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. It provides the ultimate framework to keep yourself accountable. 

Sometimes our goals get pushed to the side because we become busy with life. You might be coming home from a full day at work to cook for the family, but the dog needs a walk. So, you put off registering for that career coaching seminar till later. Later could mean tomorrow or months from now. SMART goals help you find the perfect balance between your life and your desires. 


SMART goals for personal accountability can be small or large. Only you know what is achievable given your schedule. Here are two scenarios to demonstrate:

  • Jane is a working mom who wants to move her family to a house to have more space for the baby on the way. At the moment, she does not have enough money to make an offer on one. A SMART goal could be to make a monthly spending budget to start saving money.

S – Jane decides she specifically wants to save $2,000 a month. 

M – She chooses to measure her spending with the help of a banking app that can record and calculate expenses outside utilities and rent. 

A – It is achievable because she was saving on average $1,600 a month. 

R – It is a relevant goal because the money Jane saves can be set aside for the future house. 

T – The goal can be time-bound to two months at first to allow an adjusting period before extending it.

  • After chatting with their friend Amy who joined a soccer team, Alex wants to build their muscles to join her on the team. They set a SMART goal of working out at the gym for an hour three days a week.

S – Alex specifically sets Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings after work to go to the gym. 

M – They measure their progress by increasing the weights and with the help of Amy, who joins Alex for the workout. 

A – It is achievable because Alex is already an active person who has been coming to the gym twice a week for half-hour sessions. 

R – Their goal is relevant because working out will help them improve their cardio and stamina for the games. 

T – Alex decided the goal was time-bound until the day of the tryouts. 

4 Steps to Stay Personally Accountable 

Things can go wrong all the time. That’s just life! Staying accountable for your actions will implement a mindset of improvement. The goals we set can sound achievable at first and be impossible in practice. Accountability is accepting what happened and moving forward. Try out these steps the next time you are not able to meet your goals:

  1. What went wrong? Be brutally honest when reflecting on your work process. Was the time frame too short? Did you give yourself too much to do because the goal was not specific enough? Was there a family crisis or an important work deadline that interrupted the schedule?
  2. Adjust the aspect of the SMART goal that did not work for you. Maybe that means giving yourself two weeks versus one or altering what you can measure. Change one aspect first before adjusting more.
  3. Hype yourself up to overcome self-sabotage. We all mess up, and that is okay. Your willingness to recover shows your strength and determination. 
  4. Retry your SMART goal! 

Maintain Personal Accountability With Friends

Achieving personal accountability does not have to be done alone. Your community can support your journey to becoming more accountable. Hearing someone else’s talk about their struggles can feel validating. Working for your dreams is tough. Having people around you can motivate you to continue showing up. 

Here at IAW, our community includes women from all walks of life who are pursuing their career and life aspirations just like you! You can find mentors to help guide you in the right direction, join weekly events, grow your network, and more to support your SMART goals. The platform includes an accountability check-in program where we’ll help track your weekly progress. Register for our next Monday Motivations and find a community to stay accountable together. 

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