Change is hard. Even if you’re trying to make changes for the better, it’s tough to stay on track toward your goals and create positive outcomes. This is true for creatives, too. Trying to build or expand your creative skills is tricky and vulnerable, and it’s all too easy to slip up and fall (or jump) off the creative wagon. That’s why creatives need an accountability partner.
What is an accountability partner?
An accountability partner is someone who:
- Knows your goals
- Knows your plans for achieving those goals
- Holds you to those plans
Of course, this definition isn’t set in stone. Accountability partners can be as involved as you want them to be. They can help you set your goals with strategic conversations and detailed checklists; or they can be mostly uninvolved except to check in on you to make sure everything is going according to plan. No matter what role your accountability partner plays for you, having one can be a game-changer when it comes to reaching your creative goals and/or expanding your creativity.
Why creatives need an accountability partner
There are a few reasons why creatives in particular can benefit from having an accountability partner. Here are the ones that resonate with most creatives.
They hold you accountable to deadlines.
Let’s face it—most creatives are not well-known for their punctuality or timeliness. That doesn’t mean they’re irresponsible; it just means they tend to see deadlines as being more like guidelines.
An accountability partner can help you remember and stick to your deadlines. If you have a real problem with staying on target timewise, you can find an accountability partner that will check in on you at regular intervals to make sure you are making appropriate progress on your creative work.
They won’t let you give up on good ideas.
You’d be surprised at how many times creatives totally give up on good ideas because they feel discouraged. Discouragement, setbacks, and doubts are not good reasons to give up on an idea you love.
Your partner can help you remember why you fell in love with this idea in the first place. They can make sure that you don’t just give up when things start to get rocky.
They support you when you fail.
Here’s a tough truth for you: creatives fail. Sometimes a lot. It just comes with the territory of trying new things and taking risks. Some creatives see these “failures” as huge setbacks, sometimes even allowing them to derail their creative efforts entirely.
It can make all the difference in the world when you have someone to help you put your failures in perspective. An accountability partner can hold you accountable for your attitude as well as your effort. They can help you turn your perceived failures into learning opportunities, and help you leverage them to propel you forward rather than set you back.
They encourage you to push the envelope.
Usually, an accountability partner is someone who knows you well. That means that they probably know what creativity you are capable of, maybe even more than you know yourself.
For this reason, accountability partners are usually great when it comes to encouraging creatives to keep going with their creative efforts. While this “cheerleader” role technically falls outside the typical duties of an accountability partner, I see this as holding you accountable to the idea of creativity itself—a reminder that you are a creative person and that the world needs your creativity.
They can help you form creative habits.
Habits are like shortcuts. They preprogram your brain and body to behave in a certain way under certain circumstances. If you can establish creative habits, you can set yourself up for creative success.
Forming habits takes discipline, deliberate action, and time. If you want to form these habits, you can greatly benefit from having an accountability partner to remind you, encourage you, and get you back on track if you mess up a time or two.
They give you honest feedback.
An accountability partner can also hold you accountable for the quality of your work and your integrity as a creative. If you want your accountability partner to do this, they shouldn’t allow you to settle or take the easy route on your projects. They should give you honest feedback (even if it’s hard for you to hear), and should help you improve your creative work—not just get it done.
How to find an accountability partner
Almost all creatives could benefit from having an accountability partner in one way or another. But before you automatically enlist your best friend or spouse, here are a few quick tips to help you choose a good accountability partner.
Know what type of partner will work best for you.
Accountability partners sometimes have to practice tough love. Which begs the question—who do you accept tough love from?
Some people want someone who they have a super comfortable and secure relationship with—someone who they know loves them, even when they give negative feedback.
Other people, however, would rather have a more minor or new acquaintance as an accountability partner, since it can sometimes be easier to hear criticism (even constructive criticism) from someone you don’t know well. This can sometimes make it easier to not take the negative feedback personally.
Either option is fine, as long as it works for you.
Choose someone you trust.
No matter which type of partner you choose, make sure it is someone you trust to (a) be responsible enough to check in with you as needed, and (b) tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. Make sure you communicate your needs and expectations clearly.
Choose someone you don’t want to disappoint.
Your accountability partner should be someone you respect. If you don’t respect them, why would you listen to them? Choose a partner you are actually going to feel accountable to; this entire practice is moot if you don’t mind letting your partner down.
Be an accountability partner for someone.
Accountability can be a two-way street. If you can find someone that needs your help just as much as you need theirs, you can have a mutually beneficial relationship that helps you both make progress toward your creative goals.
Choose someone who has done what you want to do.
If you know someone who has already achieved what you’re trying to achieve, they are a fantastic option for an accountability partner.
Find multiple partners.
You don’t have to have just one accountability partner. You might want different partners for different projects, or for different tasks (e.g. you have one to help you meet your deadlines and another to help you expand your creative thinking). This also allows you to find multiple people with specific talents, rather than trying to find that one perfect unicorn person who can do it all.
Creatives may need an accountability partner for any number of reasons, but the bottom line is this: an accountability partner can help you stay on task, make real progress toward your creative goals, and take your creative work farther than you could on your own.
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