From Catalyst To Real Change Pt 2 - Competent Accountability

From Catalyst To Real Change Pt 2 - Competent Accountability



min read

In the previous newsletter, we explored the importance of healthy commitments for turning “meaningful moments” into catalysts for change. 

But what happens when you feel that you put in the effort that you thought was required to change but haven’t yet seen the results you expected?

What’s often missing is a second key piece: Competent Accountability.

I've found that that we often have a "thing" (or "things") that we've struggled with for a while and would rather live without. Pornography use has definitely been one of mine. And I battled with it for over 20 years.

In that period, I can’t even remember how many times I made commitments to change my ways. Often this would follow what I thought was a catalytic moment: A powerful sermon on holiness or a passionate plea for me to get myself "right" and join an accountability group with others.

 Now if you know me, you know that once I get inspired, it’s hard to pull me off track! 

 So, I found my “accountability” and committed to meet with those who wanted the same life change I wanted. However, after an initial burst of excitement and hopefulness, our meetings would soon drop off as "life got in the way".

And in the sporadic times we did get together, our meetings became what I call "emotional vomiting confession sessions". Because we had a chance to unload our secrets, problems and relapses, we'd feel great initially. However after a few weeks or months, I would invariably revert back to my unhealthy patterns of watching pornography.

This cycle would repeat multiple times over 20 years: 

Step 1) be inspired by a catalytic moment

Step 2) make a commitment

Step 3) find accountability

Step 4) but eventually revert back to old ways.

The most damaging thing of all?

 I started to believe there was something inherently wrong with me.

Competent Accountability

In the same way “healthy” was the important distinction for making commitments, “competent” is the refining word when it comes to seeking accountability. 

How do I define competence in this area? I’ve narrowed it down to seven markers: 

Someone who:

  1. Understands your story and desired trajectory

  2. Asks the necessary questions on a regular basis to help you move forward

  3. Holds space for you to make and own your decisions and bear the consequences

  4. Offers a “judgment-free” and “grace-full” zone

  5. Keeps confidentiality 

  6. Has demonstrated competence in facing and working through their deepest fears

  7. Is often not in your family or closest friend group 

It’s worth touching briefly on the last point. A primary impulse of family and our closest friends is to protect us. And because this is a core instinct, these people often are not able to push us forward in the “risky” action that is often required for deep change. They worry that we might get more hurt than we may already be. The person who you are accountable to needs to care for you, no doubt, but also can’t be afraid of pushing you to your limits.  

All of the people who tried (and failed) to provide accountability for me in my struggle with pornography use were loving, amazing people. But competent accountability is not just about care. It’s a rich combination of mindset, skillset, and “heartset” (compassion/grace/care), which helps us discern what commitments are healthy for us as well as keeping us progressing in the midst of all the headwinds that would push against our desired trajectories. 

As I have gotten older and progressed in my own personal transformational journey, I have found there has been a both natural and intentional switch away from mentors and towards seeking coaches and counselors. Mentors are great for passing on particular skills or consulting on a specific problem based on their experience. But I found they couldn’t provide me the competent accountability I needed; which included both an agreement to a regular frequency over a longer period of time and a holistic set of questions that recognised the individuality of my journey. In many ways, I often found catchups with mentors to fall within the category of “catalytic” moments; inspiring but not necessarily leading me to the deeper change over the long term.

Because I've life-tested the competent accountability that I've need to work through changing one of the most entrenched unhealthy patterns in my life i.e. pornography, I've now found it easier to know what support I need when I commit to making other significant changes across my life, whether personal or professional.

 You don’t have to carve your path through the wilderness alone

In writing this two-part newsletter, I found myself drawn to, with a touch of nostalgia, the “peak” catalytic moments in my life. These are the times that have often been eye-opening, enlightening, and sometimes outright entertaining.

Yet, alongside this, I've felt the weight of what's at stake when we choose to go beyond these “peak” experiences and commit to making significant transformational life changes; namely, the impact on our own lives and trajectory, the impact on those around us, and the legacy we leave behind.

 Navigating beyond the cultural catalytic addiction (“catalyddiction”) for these “peak” moments isn't straightforward. To courageously step away from the path of least resistance and to work on shifting entrenched patterns and behaviors that have been with us for years, decades, or even generations, is a daunting task.

But I want you to know, speaking from my own journey into yours, it’s worth it.

As you take steps towards making healthy commitments and competent accountability, you’ll move toward a life of more holistic flourishing.

And remember, you’re not alone in this journey.

I’m with you as you forge your own path through the wilderness!

Over To You

👉 Self-Reflection Exercise.

  1. Reflect on your past efforts to change something significant about your life. How did the people you chose as accountability partners influence your journey? Were they more like friends offering support, or did they provide the “competent accountability” you needed to genuinely move forward?

  2. Considering the characteristics of competent accountability outlined, where can you find someone in your life who fits this description for one or more of your commitments? 

  3. How can ensuring competent accountability in your life help you make healthier commitments to change? Reflect on a specific area where you're seeking transformation and evaluate if your current support system is equipped to help you achieve your goals. 

👉 Respond

I've love to hear what's on your mind, whether a thought or a question. I read all emails and will respond as appropriate. Message me

👉 Pay it forward.

Share this newsletter with someone who you think would benefit from it and invite them to subscribe here.

Live whole,


p.s. If you want to take serious action beyond reading, set up a time here and we will have a conversation about options to get you moving on a new trajectory starting now.

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#liveholystic #catalyddicts #competent accountability #coaching #holistichealth

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