The Elephant in the Room

It’s impossible to talk about following through without acknowledging the elephant in the room. I mean no offense by this, but the elephant in the room is YOU!

That’s right, you’re the elephant. And you’re also the elephant trainer.

In case you haven’t noticed, we humans are complicated. On the one hand, we’re sophisticated intelligence-driven beings who have a remarkable ability to figure out what we should do. On the other hand, we’re animals that are driven primarily by instincts and reflexes that can – and often do – drive us to violate our own good intentions.

Your job as elephant trainer

To follow through better, you need to take seriously that you’re the trainer of your own elephant. As trainer, it’s your job to know as much as possible about your elephant’s instincts, reflexes, wants and needs, and to use that knowledge to get the elephant and its impressive power to help you do whatever you’ve intelligently decided you should do. To be a good trainer, you have to resort to trickery, coaxing, threatening, enticing — whatever it takes — to align the elephant’s interests with your own good intentions.

That means, for example, that if you intend to work on a project that will help you achieve an important career goal but that’s also boring enough to cause your elephant to use all its power to resist, you’d better have plenty of peanuts on hand! The elephant couldn’t care less about your career. But if the elephant does care about peanuts, you may be able to trick the elephant into pulling in the same direction your intention is pointing.  

Harnessing the power of your elephant

Following through better is about being a good elephant trainer. It’s about figuring out how to align the interests of your elephant with your good intentions so that you can use the elephant’s power to make your good intentions effective.