I grew up immersed in the culture of work. My dad was a first-generation Italian immigrant, and as a small business owner, work was just part of life. My mom had a 10th-grade education and cleaned rooms in a nursing home. Instead of family vacations, my parents spent 40+ years working to make a better life for their children, so I was determined to do the same thing.
And for the most part, that attitude of sheer determination paid off. I wasn’t the smartest person in my classes, but I was certainly willing to work harder than most. I worked two jobs throughout high school and college, and—by the time I graduated law school—I already had five years of government experience under my belt. I worked hard as an immigration lawyer for the federal government in New York City, and I worked hard as a lawyer at a prestigious law firm in Buffalo, N.Y., where many lawyers would dream to spend their career.
Except I wasn’t happy. I wanted more, and I was willing to work for it. I left the firm, started my own and dove headfirst into building my own business from scratch—even though I was newly married in a new house with a new baby—but I made it work.
And my secret to success wasn’t my work ethic (although that certainly helped), it was actually accountability.
It’s Not Just About Others Holding You Accountable, It’s About Holding Yourself Accountable
You are the person responsible for creating your own future, which means you need to be willing to go all in on yourself. As a society, we tend to look for shortcuts. We want secret methods or tricks that will help push us forward in a huge way, but—in reality—the most important things you can do to become successful are often the tiniest, seemingly insignificant changes.
People say that if you want something, you’ll work for it. But it’s not just about having a plan to make that thing happen. I can write a plan to do a workout five days a week, but that doesn’t guarantee that I’ll step foot in the gym. Sheer willpower isn’t enough, which is why accountability can be such a powerful tool.
Build Accountability Into Everything You Do—Especially Your Goals
If you set a goal for yourself, resist the temptation to make it something vague or uncertain. Instead, create a list of targets that include tangible, actionable goals. Things you can track, hold yourself to and measure.
Instead of, “get more web traffic,” a clear and concise goal would be something like, “post three SEO-optimized blog posts to the site per month.” This is something that is easy to track, easy to hold yourself accountable for doing (or avoiding), and it’s easy to create a reward for a job well done.
The best part? This can be done on an individual level or institutionally, and it’s a great way to launch your business to new heights.
At my own firm, we like setting quarterly goals. Each quarter is a 12-week “sprint,” where each team member picks a single SMART goal (if you’re unfamiliar, here’s a great explanation), and they focus on moving that goal forward over the next 12 weeks.
Over the past few years, different team members have done amazing things using this process—they’ve learned new areas of law, joined networking groups, purchased new equipment to increase efficiency, published articles and more—all from a small change.
It’s OK to Start Small and Go From There
If you don’t know how to build accountability into your life, start by writing things down. We’ve all likely heard the research that suggests simply writing down your goals increases the likelihood of achieving them by a whopping 33 percent, but adding accountability can help those numbers skyrocket.
Even the CDC knows the power of responsibility, which is why they recommend that people who want to improve their physical fitness should workout with a friend because it helps increase motivation, makes you more adventurous and increases your consistency.
When I walked away from my corporate law gig, plenty of people thought I was crazy. I had no idea how to run a business—let alone how to make one successful—but I knew I wanted to try. It was challenging, yes, but it was also one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life.
Despite all of the obstacles—and there will be many—you simply have to learn to ignore any fear and self-doubt, connect with the reason why you started and hold yourself to it. Instead of being afraid of accountability, embrace it and allow it to help push you forward—because it can and will.
Rosanna Berardi is the managing partner of Berardi Immigration Law and the CEO of High Wire Woman, where she helps working women create a blueprint to live their lives in a simpler way and take back their most precious commodity: their time. She has been featured in the LA Times, Huffington Post, Forbes, Bustle and more.