Skip to content

From Want to Won: 3 Differences Between Those Who Hold Themselves Accountable and Those Who Don’t

By Maxwell Leadership | December 27, 2022
From Want to Won: 3 Differences Between Those Who Hold Themselves Accountable and Those Who Don’t

It’s 5:30 AM. Your alarm is shrieking. Your eyes blink open to catch the first glimpse of the December day. It’s so cold outside, the sun is still hiding below the horizon. Meanwhile, your comforter envelops you in a warm hug. The snooze button is singing its siren song, overpowering the gym’s distant cries for attention.

What do you do?

In the next few weeks, personal training package sales will skyrocket, tobacco profits will dip, and hobby shops will sell out their inventory as people everywhere start abiding by their new year’s resolutions. But after just one week, only 75% of ambitious change-chasers will still be living their “new lives.” After one month, that number will drop to 64%. And by the end of the year, only about 10% of us will have fulfilled our new year’s resolutions. 

That aligns with what research shows about goal achievement, too. Statistically, we have a 10% chance of accomplishing a goal if we just have the idea to bring it to fruition.

But one thing can improve those odds dramatically, making it a near certainty that we will achieve what we’ve set out to.

The difference maker? Accountability.

Accountable: Bridging Intentions and Actions

In 2010, the American Society for Training and Development published a study with profound implications for personal growth.

The ASTD found that the more intention we apply to our goal, the more statistically likely we are to accomplish it. If we have an idea of a goal, we are 10% likely to achieve it. When we make a conscious decision to achieve the goal, our chances increase to 25%. Creating a plan ups those odds to 50%.

But more than anything, accountability boosts the likelihood that we’ll follow through. When we commit our action to another person, there’s a 65% chance that we’ll see our goal through to completion. And when we have a set accountability appointment with that person? 95%.

Personal growth expert John Maxwell says, “When we are accountable to someone, when we know we have to answer for our actions, we begin to up our game as far as production and success.” Accountability moves us from intentions to actions. The more accountable we are – to ourselves and others – the more we unlock our drive to achieve.

Here are 3 accountability behaviors to carry into the new year – and 3 non-accountability stumbling blocks to avoid.


The mental faculty of reason is a great gift. We use it daily to foresee the consequences of potential choices weigh out their pros and cons. It’s so helpful, we use reason in a matter of milliseconds thousands of times a day.

I want to stop at Starbucks, but I’ll be late for work.

I need to catch up on this project – I’ll have to work through lunch.

I’m in the mood for a soda, but I’m a little dehydrated. I should have a water instead.

It’s 5:30 AM – I should go to the gym, but my bed is so comfortable…

What did you choose? Are you sleeping, or keeping your commitment?

People who don’t hold themselves accountable choose what’s comfortable, elevating ease and preference. Their steadfastness to their goal becomes less important than whatever is right in front of them – they would rather feel good than do good.

Meanwhile, accountable people are unwilling to consider what happens if they don’t prioritize their goal. Realizing their dream is more real to them than their comfort. They make the hard choice, and in following through, they provide their word reliable. 

What you choose shows what you value. People dodging accountability value convenience. Accountable people value results.


Educator, scientist, and inventor George Washington Carver once said, “99% of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.”

As we pursue our goals, excuses are our exit lanes. They shift our focus away from our destination and start moving us in a different direction.

People who don’t hold themselves accountable always have a reason for leaving their intentions unfulfilled. They consistently give weight to their reasons not to make progress – they’re short on time; they don’t have the bandwidth; something came up. And when someone tries to hold them to their word, they defend their decision not to act. The better the story they tell themselves and others, the more their goal suffers.

Accountable people acknowledge their role in the choices they made. When they’ve made a choice that doesn’t align with their goal, they recognize it, take responsibility, and resolve to do better in the future – and then, they do.

If you are not determined to grow, nothing can force you to grow. When you are determined to grow, nothing can stop you.


“All style and no substance.” “All sizzle and no steak.” “All hat and no cattle.” The English language has several phrases to describe something whose appearance over-promises and action under-delivers.

Those who resist accountability are in love with the idea of their goal. They might speak about it, identify with it, and appear invested in it, but when the time comes to choose it, they sacrifice it to their comfort. They are not interested in the work that growing toward it requires.

Instead of superficial dedication, people who hold themselves accountable back up their words with actual effort. They consistently choose their goal, and in doing so, they achieve their goal bit by bit, day by day – and inspire those around them to do the same.

Are you setting yourself up for personal growth in 2023?

Growth is the only guarantee that the future will improve – it is the foundation for and starting place of true, lasting change.

Our goal at Maxwell Leadership is to make that growth possible. Our Maxwell Leadership app gives you the tools, community, and expert guides to help build your plan for growth. The app offers tailored digital content to enhance your strengths and your weaknesses to guide you to become the greatest version of yourself, no matter where you are on your personal growth journey.

More Articles

Do I Believe The Best In Others?
By Mark Cole | March 1, 2022

Do I Believe The Best In Others?

By John C. Maxwell | October 6, 2021


The 5 Key Resilience Traits You Need Right Now
By Valorie Burton | September 21, 2021

The 5 Key Resilience Traits You Need Right Now

Be the first to comment on "From Want to Won: 3 Differences Between Those Who Hold Themselves Accountable and Those Who Don’t"

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *