My niece, Marina, just got her first 3.6 GPA ever, in college no less. She is thrilled and I am thrilled for her. Marina has been interning with me for the last several months. Part of her internship is not only to help me with my social media but to learn the ins and outs of Accountability Works. So for the last semester, I’ve been holding her accountable to getting good grades. 

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I don’t typically work with students. Actually we are all students in a way, we are constantly committing to applying things we’ve learned or finishing things we’ve never done before but no one has been focused on grades. Remember, worrying about your grades?

Marina attends the local community college and in order to transfer to a top viticulture program (wine anyone?) she needs to get a 3.5 GPA or better. That’s a great goal in terms of the AW framework because it’s specific, measurable, actionable and ambitious. We mapped out a strategy for how she was going to do it. We looked at each of her classes and what was due and when. Once we had a calendar of all her homework assignments, papers, and test dates it was easy to decide week to week what she wanted to commit to be prepared and successful.

A map is a great thing to have but it only works if you follow it. Marina made between 4-6 commitments every single week and she kept all but 1. Each commitment was to a specific action related to her classes and usually she made one for each of her 5 classes. The week she missed the commitment it was to write a rough draft of a paper that wasn’t due for 3 weeks. Marina is used to working on things under pressure and stress. It was hard to work on something so far ahead of time even though she had mapped it out she couldn’t bring herself to do it. I’m sure we can all relate to that. Procrastination is a habit and as many of you know, a tough one to break. We can even tell ourselves that we perform better under stress and that we do our best work at the last minute!

Marina wasn’t happy with herself for procrastinating and she didn’t want to have that conversation with me again. Not that I made her feel bad but as she explained what she wanted to achieve versus the choices she was making, it became clear that even if she stuck to the plan she had a lot on her plate. It wasn’t going to serve her to put even one thing off. So for the rest of the session she didn’t miss a single commitment. When she found out her GPA was 3.6 she was so proud of herself. Not only did she see her hard work pay off but now she is confident she can do it again. 

I asked her if she didn’t have accountability what would she have done on her own to be successful?

She thought about it and said she would probably have a to do list and put her assignments in her calendar but it wouldn’t be as organized and she would likely procrastinate a lot more.

I asked her how meeting every week to review the week prior and make goals for the following week helped her?

She liked having someone else to check in with her so that she would actually do the things that she wrote down. She liked that I asked her questions every week about her classes which made her stop and regroup and make a plan for the week ahead. That way she was sure exactly what to work on. It also meant a lot to her that someone recognized how hard she was working and gave her positive feedback.

I walked away thinking how life has come around full circle.

I was 19 years old when my Mom introduced me to my mentor, Kathy Ollerton Krafchow. It was during a weekend workshop that I first learned about the principles of commitment and accountability. Kathy sent me home with my very first commitment sheet. I remember writing down my goals at the top and the commitments (small action steps) I was going to take to achieve them. I didn’t have anyone to work with though. I wrote the things I wanted and intended to do down but without accountability they were soon forgotten. Now 20 years later, I’m introducing my niece to the same principles except this time I’ve filled the accountability gap so that the things she puts at the top of her list actually get done. I can hardly believe the path that has led me here but I feel pretty happy that this is the work that I do and that I get to pass it on to someone I love so much. Who knows maybe 20 years from now she’ll be writing a similar post.