Would you say ‘ACCOUNTABILITY’ is an overused word?  How can one increase the value or the meaning behind each part in a word?  In this case: Account – Ability

As I’ve been pondering to understand phenomena as they occur in my mind, and to enhance my ability to understand my mind, my ESL mind (English as a Second Language) gets activated. That mind that does not get it, that is lost, and has no idea what to link the unknown word to.

That is my memory of how it felt while I sat in the ESL class at 10th grade when we had just arrived in Los Angeles back in 1978. The ESL class I attended everyday was taught by a Latin speaking teacher and to all Latin speaking students. Aside from a girl who spoke Greek, I was the only other non-Latino. The teacher was very accommodating to Latin students because she had the tools for it.  But neither I, nor Dimi, my Greek friend, had any idea what was being said.

You could imagine at the age of 15, having been yanked away from my place of birth and all my friends and family, not being able to communicate was most disabling and painful to my social life. Many years later, I found that I also have a highly visual thinking process, in which I learn words and concepts by seeing the meaning and not so much by their definitions. So, it has very much been catch 22, if some words do not have a picture, such as intention or attention and you have to know enough words to explain these words, then I would get stuck.  It seems in order to cope, my brain learned to disassemble words and concepts and put them back together.  Doing this, three things would happen.  I would either get the meaning right, get it wrong, or create totally new and brilliant concepts because I would put them back together in a different way.  Much like the explanation given for an invention being original and copy rightable, which requires the inventor to have a flash of genius.

A different gift was given to me as I sat in 10th grade, my first experience of learning English.  Unable to understand pictureless words & phrases, sentences, or concepts, I would draw blank and unable to access or use any other meaning in my memory system, for there was no prior learning filed in my memory. of English language.   As painful as it was, this repeated experience actually created a quality of an open mind – a blank slate, which I can access in a new situation and continue to learn and evolve.

This learning evolution has brought me to the word, Accountability.  I have begun to see how some words are so commonly used and misused that their real meaning and purpose is lost.  When anything loses its truth and purpose, it also looses its value.  For example, the word Accountability is so used and overused that it is hard to know how to acquire what this wonderful and empowering word really means to say.

For the past year and half I’ve been toying with the concept of accountability.  Who’s is it?  What does it look like in relationships?  How does it work? Why some people cannot be accountable?  Why should I be responsible for others’ responsibility to be accountable? How can I be more accountable?  My infatuation with this concept and wanting to ‘really get it’, caused my mind to resort back to that blank state and ability to disassemble and reassemble.  This analytical dissecting mode has been invaluable for gaining new insights into how the mind works.  One day during meditation, I kept thinking Accountability, Account-Ability, Account-Ability.  The ability to account – “The ability to account what?” I asked, and there it was.  I saw it so freshly like never before.

The common understanding of the word accountability is to account for what we’ve done and know the impact of what we’ve done and try and correct when we’ve done harm.  Also, there is a level of judgement, negativity, and blame involved.  No wonder, I thought, it’s  so hard to be accountable and admit and set out to correct.  As soon as a person becomes accountable, they also have to admit guilt  For many, admitting guilt can be shameful and costly.  So denial (a very cheap and easily accessed anesthesia) becomes a best friend, a safe haven and an automatic choice. 

What if this word, accountability, was a neutral word?  How cool would that be?  Then how much more effective and achievable would it be?  I set out to find out.

Through a daily practice of mindfulness, the inner workings of my mind become a laboratory for the scientist in me.  I began to observe thoughts as they occur and the relationship between occurring thoughts in my mind to my choices and actions.  During this process, it hit me one day, this word, accountability, can be a major tool to make the best choices and actions in the best way possible, without the pain of feeling judged even by one’s own self.  There are other parallel concepts!  The state Mindfulness!

A quick reference to what is Mindfulness and why do we cultivate a state of Mindfulness?  We cultivate Mindfulness in order to enhance our attention, focus, and ability to be in touch with our experiences as they occur in the exact way they do.  In a mindful moment, experiences are not polluted by our interpretations, desires or pains of the past.  We see things as they are.  This is immensely effective in making better choices and creating better results.  In my view, the practice of mindfulness in essence enhances one’s  ability to account for one’s attention, intention and actions.  Being able to account for one’s attention, enhances one’s ability to choose where to spend that attention and produce optimum results. 

Here is an example, I was sitting at breakfast table at our favorite restaurant with my boyfriend on a lovely Sunday morning.  He was very excited to tell me about his meeting with a mentor and teacher of his and I was attentively listening.  All of the sudden my eyes caught a 2″ pipe that was hanging out from the ledge of the window right across from me and to the left of his face.  My mind immediately went to, “I wonder why that pipe is there?” and my eyes followed the line of the pipe about 35 feet to the other side of the restaurant to make sense of it.  It was that instant that mindfulness kicked in and I was able to see where my attention went.  I realized, my intention at that moment was not to find an answer to a random, useless question about the pipe, but to hear  and share the joy of what my partner was expressing.  I had missed moments of what my boyfriend was saying.  As soon as I noticed my attention went away, I got it.  While called mindfulness, that realization was an ability to account for my attention.  Instantly, my mind assessed the action of my attention in its process, realized I was going to gain nothing by figuring out what that pipe was doing there and had much to loose by not  paying attention to what the person across me was saying.  The assessment included necessary corrective actions after the fact. If I were honest and cared a lot I would have to ask him to repeat what he said and if I was too embarrassed to ask, I would most likely be responding to an assumed information.   And while its taken me about a couple minutes to write and explain this, the mind did this analysis in one or two moments and was able to choose to spend its attention to what was actually important. and happening in the moment . That is when I understood accountability in a different and more powerful way – being accountable before our thoughts become choices and choices turn into actions.  And that is the goal of Mind Management, the third component in the Leaders & Strategies in COMANDTM model.  The objective here is to reduce variables that cause errors (six sigma concept) and to create optimally successful results.

The parallels are, while enhancing mindfulness enhances accountability, practicing accountability also increases our mindful moments.  Indeed, practicing mindfulness has enhanced my own ability to be accountable in making better choices and my actions more often than ever before.

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