The Ultimate Personal Accountability Strategy

woman tying her shoesTIE YOUR SHOES 

This isn’t for runners. Or rather, it’s not JUST for runners. If you have a goal of any kind and at least one pair of shoes with laces, this is for you…



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When I left my full-time job to start my business, I had no clue how to use my time. Without needing to respond to a never-ending stream of needs and deadlines, I was free to create my own schedule from the time I woke up until the time I went to bed. Sounds amazing, right? And it was… at first.

I loved working from home, but very soon the bliss of that freedom wore off and I craved some structure. I set out to be more disciplined and accountable.

First I had to figure out my rhythm. For example, my high energy time of day is the morning. What was I doing with all that morning energy? Cleaning my apartment, taking walks by the lake, and putting novels on hold at the library. Not at all what I should have been doing.

I quickly put new routines in place and devoted my mornings to high powered action items that required strategic thought and creativity. I saved the household chores for the evening.

That adjustment led to others that helped me focus my use of time and hold myself accountable to my goals and projects. I was super productive and disciplined. I published a recording of my guided visualizations. I grew my business. I published a book. I was unstoppable.

And then I became a mom.

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Personal Accounta-what?


I wish I could slap my single, 32-year-old, childless self. Too much free time??? Honey, you don’t know what real problems are.

If you’re a parent, you know what happens to your time the moment that child arrives. Time is no longer yours.

My son was the new boss and he was relentless. No free time. Bathroom breaks must be taken only when absolutely necessary. No more time-sucking luxuries like taking a shower or sitting down while eating.

When my son was three months old I gradually returned to my business. I had to make darn good use of the 10 hours a week I had back then. (At the time of this writing, he’s about to turn five and I’m up to 32 hours per week. Woohoo!)

To get back in the swing of things, I had to dig deep and find my focused, disciplined self. And, there she was: weak, squinting in the sunlight, and asking for a hot shower. She needed a lot of work.

No one was begging me to write my next book or create courses. No one was pushing me to take on projects. Instead, my son’s needs were ever present and much easier to respond to than trying to resurrect my marketing strategy.

So, naturally, I’d spend hours researching the best sippy cups and downloading Rockabye tunes during my “work” time. (You haven’t lived until you’ve heard the Rockabye Baby! version of “You Rocked Me All Night Long.”)

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Tying My Shoes: The Aha! Moment


I needed to regroup and find a new system. And then I remembered that I already had a system: my own. I wrote a whole freakin’ book on how to get unstuck and start living. I dusted it off and read it from cover to cover. What I’m about to share has resulted in a companion strategy to the book, but first and foremost, it was a solution for me.

One day I was getting ready to go for a walk. I grabbed my phone so I could listen to the latest On Being podcast, put my shoes on and tied the laces. Then I walked out the door and stopped dead in my tracks. I tied the laces and walked out the door. (This will get more exciting, I promise.)

Tying my shoelaces was the action that served as a point of no return. No one ever puts on their shoes, ties them, and then says, Never mind I’ll just stay home and watch Netflix. Unless there’s some emergency that takes place right at that moment, once you tie your shoes, you’re out the door.

In other words, tying your shoes is the moment you commit.

Could this work for my goals? Yes, it could and it did. I started identifying “tie-my-shoes” actions. What would be the simple, but powerful actions that, once taken, would lead me to follow through on my goals?

What actions would create inevitable momentum?

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 white board 5 steps to hold self accountable

5 Steps: The Ultimate Personal Accountability Strategy


Let’s go back to the taking a walk metaphor and break it down so you can see how each step applies to any goal you have.

Step 1: Desire – I mean this as a verb, not a noun. It’s the first action required. In response to the internal need I felt to get some exercise and commune with nature, I specifically desired the walk as a way to fill my needs.

Applying the Metaphor: To desire, you must first be attuned to your needs and wants – physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Ask: (1) What do I need (in this area of my life)? And, (2) What do I desire that would possibly fill that need?

Step 2: Decide – Knowing that I desired a walk, the next step was to decide to go. I could have said that I really wanted to go for a walk, but decided not to for whatever reason. Making this action a conscious one is important for the full 5-step process.

Applying the Metaphor: You’ve got your need identified and the desire for some goal or action. Now it’s time to decide to do it. This is about giving yourself permission and declaring to yourself that what you desire is worth pursuing right now.

Step 3: Prepare – Going for a walk requires several steps to get ready. Think of all the small steps involved. For me, it’s typically picking a general time to go and my route, getting dressed, and grabbing my phone, keys, sunglasses, etc.

Applying the Metaphor: Unless your desired goal or action is super small and specific, you’ll need to do some preparation work. What do you have to do before you can “go for a walk?” It helps to write down steps individually on separate index cards. Prioritize them and begin tackling them one by one. In your stack of cards there will be a “tie-your-shoes” action step. Possibly more than one. Have those ready for step four…

Step 4: Commit – Here it is! Time to tie your shoes!

Applying the Metaphor: What action will create the inevitable momentum that makes fulfilling your goal a no-brainer immediate next step? What’s the point of no return? When you embrace that thing and do it, you’ve committed yourself fully.

(Some people think that the decision they made back in step two is the commitment. Nope. It’s this moment right here where the rubber meets the road and you take concrete action.)

Step 5: Follow Through – This is opening the door, stepping through, and going for the walk. You’re doing it!

Applying the Metaphor: Your goal is being achieved in this moment. It’s important to pause and acknowledge your accomplishment before moving onto your next goal. Enjoy the “walk.” Take in the scenery and sensations, and be grateful for all you’ve done to get to that moment.

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A Few Tips Before You Take Your Next “Walk”


As you move through the five steps, you may notice that certain steps are harder for you than others. Maybe you’re not very connected to your needs and wants, so the desire part will be a challenge.

Or, maybe you’re trying to figure out what will best fill your needs so you haven’t decided yet. Or you have trouble identifying small, specific preparation steps. Or you get stuck preparing and preparing and preparing –and you never commit.

Or, you hesitate right at the follow-through moment with your hand on the doorknob. If you’ve done all the other steps well, the hesitation is always about fear…

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Don’t walk alone. Join us!


Holding yourself accountable by yourself is the hard way. It’s normal to get stuck at one of the steps, and when you do, it’s really helpful to have a guide, a walking buddy or two, or a whole group of like-minded folks who are on the same path with you. I’ve put those supports in place and you’re invited!

Request to join “READY, SET, MANIFEST,” my private Facebook group.

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DEBBIE LACY is the author and creator of Ready, Set, Manifest!™, a guiding paradigm for people who are ready to take a leap in their lives but haven’t yet taken a step. Debbie’s TEDxOlympia presentation, In Search of Purpose and Lunch, is a great example of her unique use of metaphors to create powerful tools for insight, action, and growth. Debbie and her husband reside outside of Seattle with their son and two dogs.

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