Each car I’ve used since the time I was 16 had the same 2×2 inch slip of paper attached to the mirror side of its driver side visor.  The paper, which was torn from an advertisement in a running magazine, says this: “Let us ask you something. And tell us the truth.  There’s only one person who will know if you finish today, isn’t there?  The same person who knows you finished yesterday.”

Through the years, it survived countless car clean outs, a few self-detail attempts, and two vehicle changes.  Somehow, that little piece of paper always seemed important to keep with me. I couldn’t bear to throw it away.  The saying became representative of my accountability to myself.  It was the thing that seemed to always stare back and say, “Hey missy, are you really satisfied with that move?”  In the beginning it was all about getting workouts in and giving them all I could.  When I went to college, it reminded me to keep trying in school and sports no matter how discouraged I got. Yesterday morning I looked at it and sighed, remembering I had to address all those annoying grown up responsibilities like paying bills, setting up a dentist appointment, and completing my day’s business correspondence. And I had to get my work out in.

As I get older, more responsibility falls on my shoulders.  Mom and Dad aren’t around to tell me to make my bed and floss my teeth.  No coach is telling me to stay in shape and get in practices everyday.  No one is around everyday to challenge the choices I make with my time, money, and attitude.  It’s up to me.  So what happens when I feel weak?  It happens every now and again…possibly on Valentine’s Day when everyone asks who’s taking me out (seriously, this is the one holiday that can absolutely make strong, independent living seem pathetic).

Katherine Hepburn, known for her strength and skill, once said, “I’m very different from the girl everyone seems to know. I don’t really know her. I’m sort of like the man in the furnace: I just keep her going.”

The trick, I think, is to set your standards high so that you stay high, even if you happen to slip sometime. They are your safety net. Clearly draw lines in your life that you will not cross, and if you do cross one, you know right away that something needs to change.  I’m writing mine down and putting them on post-it notes throughout my apartment.  I eat healthy- by doing these specific things. I exercise- and hold myself to these specific guidelines.  I am a good person- by living by these specific morals and values.  It’s important to be picky in your life’s standards.

No matter if you’re in a relationship or have someone to keep you accountable all the time.  You are ultimately the one who has to be your own glue.   After all, as George Eliot famously said, “Our character is what we do when no one is looking.” We are who we make ourselves be.