Motivation vs Accountability: Understanding the Key Differences

What you will learn:

Motivation and accountability are two essential concepts that are often discussed in the context of personal and professional development. While motivation is the driving force that propels individuals towards their goals, accountability is the sense of responsibility and ownership that individuals feel towards their actions and outcomes. Both concepts are critical for achieving success, but they are not interchangeable.

Key Takeaways

  • Motivation and accountability are two essential concepts that are necessary for achieving success.
  • Motivation is the driving force that propels individuals towards their goals, while accountability is the sense of responsibility and ownership that individuals feel towards their actions and outcomes.
  • Understanding the differences between motivation and accountability is essential for individuals who want to achieve their goals.

Understanding Motivation

Motivation is the driving force behind an individual’s behaviour. It is the reason why people act in a certain way to achieve their goals. There are two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation comes from within, while extrinsic motivation is driven by external factors such as rewards or punishments.

Types of Motivation

Intrinsic motivation is driven by internal factors such as curiosity, desire, and personal growth. It is the most powerful form of motivation as it comes from within and is not dependent on external factors. Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is driven by external factors such as rewards, punishments, or social pressure. While it can be effective in the short term, it is not sustainable in the long run.

The Role of Readiness

Readiness is an essential component of motivation. It refers to an individual’s willingness to take action towards their goals. Without readiness, motivation is ineffective. For example, a person may be motivated to lose weight, but if they are not ready to make the necessary lifestyle changes, their motivation will not lead to action.

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Accountability Fundamentals

Defining Accountability

Accountability is a crucial concept in personal and professional life. It refers to the process of taking responsibility for one’s actions, decisions, and outcomes. In other words, accountability is the willingness to accept ownership and acknowledge the consequences of one’s behaviour. It is an essential ingredient for building trust, fostering transparency, and creating a culture of integrity.

Accountability vs. Responsibility

Responsibility and accountability are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. Responsibility refers to the duties and obligations that come with a particular role or task. Accountability, on the other hand, is the willingness to accept the consequences of one’s actions and decisions. In other words, responsibility is about what you are supposed to do, while accountability is about what you actually did.

Creating Accountability Processes

Creating accountability processes involves setting clear expectations, establishing systems to monitor progress, and providing feedback on performance. It is essential to establish a system of accountability to ensure that everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goals.

Accountability processes can take many forms, including regular check-ins, progress reports, and performance evaluations. It is essential to establish a system that is tailored to the needs of the person and the specific goals that are being pursued.

The Three S’s

When it comes to achieving goals, motivation and accountability are two essential elements. However, to ensure that these elements work effectively, three key areas must be considered: Systems, Skin In The Game, and Support.


Having the right systems in place can help individuals and teams stay on track and achieve their goals. This can include tools such as apps, task lists, and calendars. By having a system in place, individuals can better manage their time and prioritize tasks effectively.

Skin In The Game

Having “skin in the game” means that individuals have a personal stake in the success of the project or goal. This can include financial incentives, recognition, or personal satisfaction. When individuals have a personal stake in the success of the project, they are more likely to be motivated and hold themselves accountable for their actions.


Having a support system in place can help individuals stay motivated and accountable. This can include mentors, coaches, or accountability partners. By having someone to provide guidance and support, individuals can stay on track and overcome any obstacles that may arise.

Choosing The Right Levers

You may have already guessed that when it comes to motivation, everyone is going to be different depending on their life stage, abilities, experience and interests. An easy way to discover what type of motivation you need to apply is by pulling apart your results from the 8-question quiz from this post. Grade these questions out of 10:

  1. In the last six months, how much have you thought about achieving this goal?
  2. In the last six months, how much time have you put into planning how to achieve your goal?
  3. In the last six months, how much have you socialised your thoughts about making a change with people you trust?
  4. How good is your support network and structure to deal with the change journey and potential setbacks/failure?
  5. How aware are you of the poor habits and behaviours that derail your momentum and success?
  6. These poor habits, behaviours and lack of success are causing you distress, negative emotions or outcomes?
  7. Rate your experience to make a similar change like this in the past with success.
  8. Rate your motivation to achieve or get started towards this goal.

Once you have graded these questions out of 10, divide your score by 80. This should leave you with a percentage out of 100. We’re aiming for 80% or above.

Questions 1-3 apply directly to your individual readiness in relation to the goal. If you score low on these questions it’s a good possibility the goal is too big or not in alignment to where you really need to head.

Question 4 is all about your support network. Engaging extrinsic motivation methods such as community and competition can help increase engagement.

Questions 5 & 6 are about the pain, fear or negative emotions you feel about your current situation. If we score low here we might not be far enough down the change journey in order to stay motivated long-term.

Question 7 is a perfect question to assess the use the extrinsic motivators such as money or getting a coach. If you don’t have the experience, you can easily bump those numbers up by engaging someone who has or a community of people like you

The final question is a raw score of motivation, if you get to the end of the quiz and find that this is lower than a 9 or 10, you might have more important things to worry about in your life. Focus on those as simply adding yet another goal to your list can become overwhelming.

Challenges of Motivation and Accountability

Motivation and accountability are essential for achieving goals and staying on track. However, there are several challenges that can hinder progress and make it difficult to stay motivated and accountable.

Firstly, why do we fail?

This video explains in detail why we choose the wrong goal and how to assess whether or not a goal is right for us. To summarise however, we can usually put our failures in the following categories:

  1. Impulse Led
  2. Poor Planning
  3. Too big, too soon

Overcoming Procrastination and Overwhelm

One of the biggest challenges to motivation and accountability is procrastination and overwhelm. When faced with a large task or a long to-do list, it can be tempting to put things off or avoid them altogether. This can lead to feelings of guilt and anxiety, which can further erode motivation and accountability.

To overcome procrastination and overwhelm, it is important to break tasks down into smaller, more manageable chunks. This can help to reduce feelings of overwhelm and make it easier to get started. It can also be helpful to set deadlines and create a schedule to help stay on track.

Dealing with Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety can also be major obstacles to motivation and accountability. When feeling stressed or anxious, it can be difficult to focus on tasks and stay motivated. This can lead to procrastination and a lack of accountability.

To deal with stress and anxiety, it is important to practice self-care and stress-reducing activities such as exercise, meditation, and deep breathing. It can also be helpful to talk to a therapist or counsellor to learn coping strategies and techniques.

The Effects of Guilt and Shame

Guilt and shame can also be major barriers to motivation and accountability. When feeling guilty or ashamed, it can be difficult to stay motivated and accountable. These feelings can also lead to self-sabotage and a lack of progress.

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Measuring Success and Outcomes

When it comes to measuring success and outcomes, it’s essential to have a single measure of ultimate success. Creating smaller, more manageable milestones can help individuals track their progress and determine whether they are on track.

The Role of Deadlines and Milestones

Deadlines and milestones can also play an important role in measuring success and outcomes. Deadlines can help individuals stay focused and motivated, while milestones can provide a sense of progress and accomplishment. It is important to set realistic deadlines and milestones, as well as to regularly review and adjust them as needed.

Evaluating Progress and Adjusting Strategies

Finally, evaluating progress and adjusting strategies is critical for measuring success and outcomes. This involves regularly reviewing daily habits, deadlines, and milestones, as well as assessing whether the current strategies and tactics are working. If they are not, it may be necessary to adjust the approach and try something new.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How can one distinguish between the roles of motivation and accountability in achieving goals?

Motivation and accountability are two distinct concepts that work together to achieve personal and professional goals. Motivation is the internal drive that propels individuals towards their objectives, while accountability is the external mechanism that ensures individuals remain on track towards their goals. Motivation is the driving force behind the desire to achieve a particular goal, while accountability is the means to ensure that the goal is achieved. In short, motivation is the “why,” while accountability is the “how.”

What strategies can be employed to enhance personal accountability for better motivation?

Personal accountability is critical to achieving goals. To enhance personal accountability, individuals can employ various strategies, such as setting clear goals, breaking down goals into smaller tasks, tracking progress, seeking feedback, and rewarding oneself upon achieving milestones. Additionally, individuals can enlist an accountability partner, coach, or mentor to provide support, guidance, and motivation.

In what ways does external accountability impact intrinsic motivation?

External accountability can have both positive and negative impacts on intrinsic motivation. Positive external accountability, such as receiving recognition or rewards for achieving goals, can enhance intrinsic motivation by reinforcing the value of the task or goal. However, negative external accountability, such as punishment or criticism for not achieving goals, can decrease intrinsic motivation by creating stress, anxiety, and fear of failure.

What are the psychological underpinnings that differentiate motivation from accountability?

Motivation and accountability are rooted in different psychological underpinnings. Motivation is driven by internal factors, such as personal values, beliefs, and desires, while accountability is driven by external factors, such as social norms, rules, and expectations. Motivation is an intrinsic process, while accountability is an extrinsic process. While motivation is based on personal choice, accountability is based on external pressure.

Can accountability measures be counterproductive to maintaining long-term motivation?

Accountability measures can be counterproductive to maintaining long-term motivation if they are too rigid or punitive. When individuals feel that they are being overly monitored or punished for not achieving goals, they may become demotivated, stressed, and anxious. Therefore, it is essential to balance accountability measures with supportive strategies that enhance motivation, such as providing feedback, recognition, and rewards.

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