The four things you need to understand to follow through on plans

How To Follow Through On Goals

Follow-through is a huge deal in life. Core example: the gym on January 1 vs. the gym on March 1. See a difference? You probably do. People always have ideas about improvements, both individually and within broader networks they belong to (I probably shouldn’t say “always,” because many people just go through life doing their thing), but you essentially need to make your ideas into habits and then get some consistency around those habits. As I’ve written about a lot, I often struggle with thisI think a lot of people do.

So … from a social science/economics perspective, how is this idea of “follow-through” actually achieved? Turns out it’s via four core tenets:

  • How much do you treasure the commitment in question?
  • How much are you troubled by the problems that emerge?
  • How much are you willing to contribute to your goals?
  • Do you perceive other good choices?

How To Follow Through On Goals

The big equation, then, is:

Treasure (minus) Troubles (plus) Contributions (minus) Choices = Level Of Commitment/Follow-Through

Think about it in the context of personal fitness, which is a “goal without follow-through” for many people. I’m currently trying to chase that dragon. If you apply the above in that world, you come to something like this:

  • You treasure the commitment because it can make you a healthier person, make you feel better about yourself, make you more attractive, help you live longer, keep down medical bills, etc.
  • You can be troubled by the problems that emerge along the lines of waking up early, going to the gym when you’re not motivated, making sure you have a plan and sticking to said plan, etc.
  • You need to be able to contribute your time, your energy, your effort, your effort in non-motivated times, forego watching TV, etc.
  • In terms of perceiving other good choices, what that basically means is … you need to learn to say “no” to other good ideas. There’s only so much time and you can’t chase everything. If you try to, you’ll get distracted from your main “follow-through” goal. That decreases commitment.

Here’s the “nut graf” on that Fast Company article:

If you rely on fleeting moments of motivation for achieving your most important goals, then you may find it’s not enough to sustain you through setbacks or periods of adversity. But if you can reaffirm and sustain that motivation over the long haul by understanding the elements of commitment, you will greatly increase your chance of success.

And also remember this: humans (like yourself!) are visual people, so consider trying your goals back to visual cues. It can help.


Ted Bauer

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