Here's what accountable doesn't mean: it doesn't mean taking the blame and it doesn't mean meeting someone else's expectations. It doesn't mean being embarrassed if you haven't achieved what you set out to achieve.
|Photo credit: Sepehr Ehsan, Flickr|
Accountable means that you have the ability to give an account of something within your control. This account can be a record of what you did and what result it had: in accounting, everything must balance so every action must have an equal and opposite reaction somewhere in the books.
Outside accounting, giving your account of an event or action means telling your story of how it happened. What I love about this is that every good story requires an interaction between the main character, other characters, and an environment. Everyone is "at cause" (capable of making things happen) and no one is the sole cause of an achievement or a failure.
When you hold yourself accountable for your actions, you should not be beating yourself up for not getting a result you wanted. You should be weighing your actions against the things that triggered them and the things that resulted from them. Your story helps you see that you are both responsible and part of a bigger system of causes and effects.
When you give an account as though you lived in a vacuum, separate from other people and circumstances, you give only half of an accounting: your books don't balance. When you tell the story of an action or event, you see that there was much going on outside the choices you made. This may show you openings in the circumstances that will lead to a better next step.
The next time you are tempted to beat yourself up because something didn't turn out as you hoped, take the time to tell your story. Put in the other people and the circumstances. Find the balance. And then find the opening that lets you move forward.