One of the most puzzling and frustrating aspects of human nature is our tendency to fail to do whatever we intelligently decide we must do to achieve goals we truly want to achieve. Although it gets far less attention than it deserves, poor follow through is a huge problem that deprives us of the full benefit of our intelligence, experience, ability and hard work.
The truth is, unless you’re able to consistently do – and keep on doing – whatever you intend to do, you’re simply wasting much of your potential. The better you are at following through, the more successful you can be in your career, your health and your relationships.
A clinical psychologist, I’ve devoted much of my career to making sense of why even highly motivated people often fail to follow through on their own good intentions, and I’ve reached some admittedly provocative conclusions that have important implications for how to follow through on goals in order to achieve greater success.
Why We Don’t Follow Through
Although we may beat ourselves up for our follow through failures, poor follow through is not exactly our fault. It’s caused primarily by a flaw in the design of the normal human mind.
What It Really Takes To Follow Through
In light of the way the mind really is wired, the key to following through is to be much more deliberate and clever about making yourself act in accord with your own intentions. Instead of just having a good intention, telling yourself “I’ve got the power to follow through”, crossing your fingers and hoping for the best, you have to take a second step.
You have to use what my colleague and co-author Pete Greider and I refer to as the "Follow Through Formula." You have to make a practice of creating conditions – putting yourself in situations – that force you do what you intend to do. It’s not good enough to just think “I really should.”
To follow through, you must really feel like you have to follow through.You already use the Follow Through Formula every time you set an alarm clock to make yourself wake up at a desired time. Instead of just expecting your “I will wake up at 5 AM” intention to get the job done, you use an alarm clock to create conditions that will force you to follow through.
To follow through consistently, you have to set an alarm clock for virtually every good intention you have. Instead of counting on your good intentions to automatically come with enough motivational power to get the job done, you have to take the bull by the horns. You have to deliberately create conditions that make you truly feel like you must do what you intend to do.
You may not like the idea of making yourself follow through. My advice: Get over it! Your success really does hinge on your ability to follow through. And your ability to follow through, like it or not, depends on your willingness to make your good intentions as powerful as they need to be to get the job done.