Leaving Work Behind

How to Find Autonomy by Not Relying On Yourself (In 3 Ways)

Written by Anne Dorko on February 21, 2017. 0 Comments

A collection of balloons.It’s easy to feel alone when building your own freelance career or starting a business. (Cue All By Myself here, if you feel the need to dwell in the loneliness.) When you approach it like a lone wolf, you’re more likely to burn out and get overwhelmed. It doesn’t need to be this way!

Building autonomy doesn’t actually mean living and working in a vacuum. Making it on your own actually involves other people. Right now, I’d like to make the case for having accountability partners or joining a mastermind group. These are small groups of like-minded folks with similar goals who check in on a regular basis to keep each other motivated.

If you’re tired of going it alone, but aren’t sure whether this is the right approach for you, allow me to offer three ways that asking for help is beneficial. However, before that, let’s take a look at how you find accountability partners in the first place.

How to Find Accountability Partners

When I first heard about starting a mastermind group or finding an accountability partner, I wrote it off. I didn’t know many people I trusted enough to meet with regularly, and those who were trustworthy were too busy. Besides, relying on other people reeked of everything I was trying to get away from in my normal office job!

Years later, I finally joined a like-minded business training group called Fizzle, which also featured an online forum. There, I was able to start making new connections with the kind of people who make time every week for this thing. Ultimately, I found people who were serious about hitting goals.

You can recreate this kind of success through joining similar groups either online or off. Exactly which group is right for you depends on your personality, interests, and goals. Forming the mastermind group is simply a matter of actually meeting up regularly with a few of the folks who are most aligned with your goals.

How to Find Autonomy by Not Relying On Yourself (In 3 Ways)

Having autonomy isn’t about being alone, it’s about being able to make your own choices and decisions. Not relying on your own judgement all of the time is a great way to make sure you choose the right path.

Here are three ways that I’ve found accountability partners keep me on track.

1. Give Yourself Regular Reality Checks

I’m one of those people who suffers from shiny object syndrome. It doesn’t make me special, it rather makes me largely ineffective in reaching my true goals.

For example, I used to have a serious problem with buying up domains for each website idea I had instead of vetting and planning them out first. At one point I had nearly 50 domains. I held onto them for several years before finally letting go, even though none of them were receiving updates or bringing in money. Not only did I spend time and energy in setting up these sites, but they cost over $500 per year in domain registrar fees alone.

If I had an accountability partner listening to me make those decisions, you can bet they would have spoken up after extraneous domain purchase three or four. This kind of feedback is vital for helping you double-check that your sparkly new ideas aren’t just a feel-good buzz, but something with grit and merit.

At each meeting, you can do this by airing out all of your ideas and concepts. Your partner should offer a reality check, helping to:

Imagine the thousands of dollars I would have saved on domains!

2. Get Feedback On Your Action Plan

Another aspect of my shiny object syndrome is overcommitting to a bunch of different ideas. This could be accepting a lot of work at once, fitting in too much work into a travel day, or trying to run a small herd of projects side by side. It turns out I am not, in fact, a super person with endless powers to concentrate and put out quality work. There are limits.

We often have a tendency to downplay how bad these situations are after the fact; however, a good partner will recognize when you’re overreaching your boundaries. After all, they will have had to hear about it previously, so they should be pretty vocal once they hear you’re repeating the same mistakes again.

You can get this kind of feedback simply by reviewing your action plan together. I recommend covering your weekly plan and devising a long-term roadmap, asking for feedback on:

This will help you stay on track and keep your eye on the prize, without burning yourself out.

3. Turn Accountability Into a Schedule

Since so many of my projects are personal, I have nobody asking “Did you finish that?” Even though these are my own, fun side projects, they still take time and effort. For example, I once participated in a seven-day launch challenge for a service that (ironically) enabled you to quickly launch a new idea and test its viability. I kept the whole plan to myself, and it promptly died. This kind of behavior has stopped since I found some accountability partners.

Clients will often follow up with you on the work they’re paying you to do – so that’s regular accountability for those projects sorted. However, what about all of the personal goals you undertake?

At each meeting, make sure that your partner will ask you difficult questions about projects you’ve lost steam on, such as:

Having someone regularly question you on your fleeting past comments will help you take yourself more seriously. While explaining dead projects away was fine in the past, you’ll now need to be prepared to follow through.


Working without help because you’re misguided in what it means to be a freelancer is a surefire way to burn out and feel hopeless. Finding autonomy may mean partnering up with someone who can help you along the way. They will act as a mentor, partner, and moral support team – and you’ll do the same for them!

In this piece, I’ve gone through the primary benefits of either having accountability partners, or joining a mastermind group. Let’s recap them quickly:

  1. You get to run weekly reality checks on your new ideas.
  2. Partners will offer feedback on your action points to make sure they’re feasible.
  3. You regularly have to follow up on the things you say you’ll get done.

Do you have any other questions about the benefits of having accountability partners? Let us know in the comments section below.

Image credit: Cleverpics.

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