Not Following Through on Following Through?

I confessed in a previous post that although I’m proud of the follow through strategies I’ve developed over the years that enable people who use them to consistently make good on their own good intentions, I’m aware — painfully aware — that these strategies won’t do much good for people who don’t actually use them. And I’m also painfully aware that not everyone who learns them will use them.   

A Maddening Paradox

Frankly, I struggle every day with this maddening paradox: We humans need follow through strategies because we’re not innately equipped with what it takes to follow through consistently. Yet, because we don’t follow through consistently, we may not even follow through enough to follow through on following through!

Honestly, it drives me crazy!

A New Mindset

So, I’m beginning to think that the best way for me to help people who learn about follow through strategies but don’t follow through on using them is to concentrate on simply trying to change the way they think about following through. Instead of emphasizing strategies and techniques that they may not follow through in using, I’m hoping to just plant ideas — concepts, principles, metaphors — that will work organically to improve how people understand and deal with their own good intentions.

Here’s an example: It’s human nature to resist doing things that feel unpleasant or inconvenient. We can’t help it — it’s just the way we’re wired. The more unpleasant or inconvenient something we intend to do feels (you can usually hear the “ugh!”), the less likely we are to do it. Obviously, this tendency is bad news for our good intentions, which almost always require us to do things that we don’t feel like doing. Luckily, however, it’s possible to make lemonade out of lemons, that is, to turn this normally troublesome tendency into a follow through asset.   


Making Lemonade Out of Lemons

You do this whenever (1) you make what you intend to do feel less unpleasant and therefore easier to do, or (2) you make it feel more unpleasant and therefore harder to do what you don’t intend to do. People who follow through better make a point of making it easier—less unpleasant, less inconvenient, less “ugh” — to do (and keep on doing) the right thing (the thing they intend to do), and making it harder — more unpleasant, more inconvenient, more “ugh” — to do the wrong thing (the thing they intend not to do). It’s all about reducing the resistance you feel to doing the right thing and increasing the resistance you feel to doing the wrong thing.

For example, if you set up an automatic savings or investment plan, you’ll feel less resistance overall to acting on your intention to set aside money every month for retirement. And if you keep the high calorie snack foods you intend to stop grazing on in a location that’s hard to access, you’ll feel more resistance to violating your intention.

Don’t Rely on Willpower Alone

Of course, behind the idea of making it easy to do what you intend to do and hard to do what you intend not to do is an even more fundamental concept that’s a key to the success enjoyed by people who are true follow through champions. They never ever rely on their willpower alone to get themselves to act in accord with their intentions. Because they realize — and accept — that willpower is a decidedly unreliable source of power for their good intentions, they always make a point of deliberately creating situations and managing their environment in ways that make their intentions more effective.