Who do you have in your life to keep your feet to the fire on high priority things that have to happen? I am not talking about projects at work or in school. I am talking enormous, intimidating life decisions that change everything… the kind of earth-shaking stuff that matters. I am talking about the dreams you think about day in and day out… those goals that matter more than you’ll ever admit. The life objectives you would never forgive yourself for letting slip through the cracks.
When Jammie and I finally made the decision to quit our jobs and dedicate our lives to international service there was a select group of people that I told first. I call them my co-conspirators, my accountability partners. The group consisted of a very small circle of family and friends that, to the very last person were supportive and excited. They understood. They knew it was time. They knew it was right. They were as excited and as nervous as we were. They knew what it all meant.
This was the same group that I had relied on for much of my life for encouragement, understanding and perspective at each critical juncture. To be in this small circle of co-conspirators there were three things you had to be prepared to both give and receive:
This group was one of the only reasons we were able to make the decision that would completely alter our lives.
Here’s why accountability partners matter so incredibly much and why they should be of huge importance to you if making a dent in the universe is of any interest whatsoever:
They know what you are about
Co-conspirators are the best kinds of friends. They define your inner circle. They know you better than just about anyone. They know you so well that they could make decisions for you. Except they wouldn’t because they respect you and your decisions too much to want to control you. They are life-long friends and they are worth their weight in gold.
They can often see things clearer than you can yourself
When you are in a mess these kinds of friends can often see the bigger picture better than you can. I remember a particularly anguished phone call I made to one accountability partner shortly before Jammie and I decided to act on our service and travel plans. I was agonizing about this and that but he was able to help me cut through the clutter and see my priorities over the circumstances that were blurring the larger picture.
They can be brutal
Accountability partners are there to real with you. If your efforts towards attaining a personal goal are currently sucking it is their job to tell you exactly that. The difference between accountability partners and casual acquaintances or fair weather friends is that accountability partners love you enough to be tough when they have to. Not always fun. Almost always useful.
They are loyal
You can’t find stronger loyalty than this inner circle. True, they hit you straight but when push comes to shove, these friends will do anything for you. I’ve had accountability partners help me out in incredibly difficult situations with the kind of political (or other) maneuvering that belongs in a movie. You can count on accountability partners. This level of trust also means that you need to be willing to have their back when it counts. Don’t sign up if the sight of blood bothers you because friendship on this level can involve work that is highly unpretty.
They don’t care what work thinks
Accountability partners are not your boss and they don’t care what your employer thinks is important. As their priority is your well-being and not quarterly benchmarking, accountability partners can tell you when your job is getting in the way of living. Here’s a tip: Listen. If your accountability partners are telling you that work is derailing you, don’t be a corporate coward. There are enough of those types jumping off buildings already. Listen up and make some changes.
They put set-backs in perspective
Bad news is rarely as devastating as it first seems. Accountability partners are good at reminding you that the world is not ending just because your house is in foreclosure, you didn’t get a bonus at work or you just got dumped. Be willing to snap out of your tunnel vision and listen to your accountability partners as they put your challenges in perspective. They can see the bigger picture better than you when you are in your valley of despair.
They celebrate success
Nobody can celebrate better than your co-conspirators when it comes to the most important victories in life. They know what you’ve wanted for so long and all you’ve gone through to get there. They know about every difficult conversation, the long nights, the slammed doors and the deals gone sour. They are proud that you persevered. And they sure as hell want to celebrate when you get there. Because, really, you getting there is them getting there.
Who are the co-conspirators in your life? It is time to get real, to start truly valuing them and begin focusing on how to cultivate these critical friendships. Nobody can be entirely self-reliant. It simply doesn’t work that way.
In the comments, tell me about your accountability circle. How do you add value to their lives? Are you able to share your biggest dreams with them? Are you willing to listen to them when it matters?