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Failure to follow through….I was gonna do it...

Failure to follow through….I was gonna do it!

Photo on 12-10-12 at 10.19 AMFollow through:  To press on in an activity or process especially to a conclusion. ~ Merrium Webster

Everyone has had that friend ~ you know the one….”Hey, let’s do lunch, she says, I’ll call you and schedule”!  And you know the only way it’s ever going to happen is if you call and schedule it.

It’s also safe to say we’ve all probably worked with people at one time or another that were the mayors of “Iwasgonnaville”.   When you’re dealing with one of these people at work, and you’re the type of person that takes seriously what they do, the normal response is to A)  Follow them around until you see that they have done it…or B) Just do it yourself – it requires a lot less work than following them around.

How about around the house?  I know, you’ve had great intentions to fix that ceiling fan that makes an ever so soft squeak….until the middle of the night, when it sounds like a siren!

We’re all guilty of not following through on some level.  So what’s the underlying issue with people who lack the essential “Follow Through Gene”?  Is it a lack of motivation?  Perhaps procrastination?  My first inclination was to believe it was an either / or type of thing.

On Michael LaJeune’s blog he came up with 7 Reasons People don’t follow through.

Lack of understanding – What I often find is that people don’t know how to do some of the simplest tasks in their business.  Like getting their financials in order, putting together an email blast, writing a sales script, meeting with an employee, etc.  This lack of understanding quite often stops or at a minimum delays them from taking action and ultimately they will just get distracted by other things.

Don’t know where to start – This is one of the first questions clients usually ask me…  “where do we start?”.  The reason is because even simple tasks usually have multiple moving parts.  And when you are making decisions in a business or even in a household for that matter, you have to consider other people and the impact of your decision on external forces.  So not knowing where to start will often stop people from ever starting at all.

Overwhelmed with details – So let’s say someone understands what to do and even knows where to start… Some people get that far, but get bogged down in the details of how much there is to do and wanting it to be perfect.  Perfectionist are quite often only perfect at one thing…  Being late to the party.

Lack of Value and Expectations – Here’s a massive one.  If someone doesn’t understand the value of doing something they just won’t do it or they will stop.  The classic example is the karate kid.  Young Danielson didn’t see any value in wax on, wax off.  He expected to learn karate not how to wax a car.  So he was very frustrated with the experience.  Now because it was a movie, he put up with the training (also because he had his coach watching over him all day).  But in real life, people just walk away from the task or never start it.  The other part of this one is expectations.  By taking on a task, you have to have expectations around it.  What do you want the outcome to be?  If you aren’t clear on the outcome it makes it hard to pursue the task.

Priorities – A lot things happen in a business every day and knowing your priorities is very important.  This spills over from item 4, but realize if you don’t know the value and expectations of the task you are about to take on, it makes it hard to prioritize in your day.

Out of control with their time – This is one of the ROOT causes I see a lot.  When I work with people I always look for ways to fine tune their schedule.  Even if they don’t ask for that…  Reason being is that this is often the first excuse… “I didn’t have enough time”.  And for that person — in that moment, that’s a fact.  So it has to be addressed.

Stress – While this is just an excuse, stress is very real and often debilitating.  And it is often compounded by items 1 through 6 on this list not being answered for the individual and that ultimately creates more stress.  Stress is not only a distraction it can result in a depression and other paralyzing behavior that makes a person stop caring.


Sick person

Peter Bregman of the Harvard Business Review thoughts about follow through:  “Motivation is in the mind; follow-through is in the practice. 

“Peter,” my friend Byron emailed me a few days ago. “I haven’t been diligent about working out over the past five years and I’m trying to get back in the gym and get myself into a healthier state. I’ve found that on my quest for a Mind, Body, Spirit balance, my body has been neglected. I need to fix it, and it’s VERY hard for me to get motivated. Any insight?”

It’s the kind of question that’s on many of our minds in the midst of New Year’s resolution season.

Something you should know about Byron: He recently started a business and he’s constantly developing his skills through training programs he pays for with his own money. So it’s not that Byron is unmotivated in general. It’s just that he thinks he’s unmotivated to work out.

But Byron is wrong. “I need to fix it,” he wrote. He is motivated to work out; otherwise he wouldn’t have emailed me. He clearly cares about getting fit and when you care about something, you’re motivated.

No, Byron’s challenge isn’t motivation. It’s follow-through.

Which is important to realize because as long as Byron thinks he’s solving for a motivation problem, he’ll be looking for the wrong solution. He’ll try to get himself excited. He’ll remind himself that being in shape is really important. Maybe he’ll visualize the partners he’ll attract if he looks better or the years he’ll add to his life if he gets in better shape.

Each attempt to “motivate” himself will only increase his stress and guilt as it widens the gap between his motivation and his follow-through, between how badly he wants to work out and his failure to do so. We have a misconception that if we only cared enough about something, we would do something about it. But that’s not true.

Motivation is in the mind; follow-through is in the practice. Motivation is conceptual; follow-through is practical. In fact, the solution to a motivation problem is the exact opposite of the solution to a follow through problem. The mind is essential to motivation. But with follow through, it’s the mind that gets in the way.


Procrastination….I call this the lack of follow through, but with good intentions.  Check out the short video on procrastination at the bottom of this post….It’s a Fascinating look at how our brain works!  The book’s good too (and no this is a paid endorsement).

So now, for the crux of issue…Are you the friend that says “Hey let’s do lunch, I”ll call and schedule it”?  Do you think you’d be happier without that black cloud filled with an unwritten “to do” list hanging over your head?


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