We set goals almost every day of our lives. As a matter of fact, every New Year, people around the world make new resolutions for the year. However, only a little percentage of the people actually follow through. It’s easy to make plans and set goals but following through usually turns out to be quite difficult for most of us. This brings up the question of:
Why don’t people follow through with their plans?
Let’s assume that you set yourself certain goals for the year. Your list of goals could include:
- Learn a new skill from YouTube
- Learn a new language
- Achieve a regular workout routine.
It is very likely that you may end up achieving only one or none of those goals. So why don’t people follow through with their plans and goals? After reading “Finish what you start” by Peter Hollins, I finally found some answers to this crucial question. He explains the multiple reasons why we are not following through and provides numerous tactics to grow your willpower, stop procrastination, focus and make your goals reality.
Here are a few of them mentioned in the book.
1. Lack of commitment and dedication
Following through with your goals requires a lot of effort and commitment. However, most people find it difficult to stay committed and dedicated to their plans and goals. They might be committed initially but over time, they would begin to get distracted by other things or other plans. Within a matter of time, their initial plans and goals would be abandoned for a newer and seemingly easier plan. Thus, they end up not following through at all.
2. Lack of motivation
Everyone needs a driving and compelling force; something to push them along and fuel them towards achieving their set goals. Motivation could come in the form of positive thoughts, self-help books or close friends and family who encourage you regularly. When you do not feel motivated, you would not be able to follow through with your plans and goals as soon as it gets a little bit harder.
3. You do not think your goals are important
When you set goals, they may seem very important at first and would rank high on your scale of priority. However, as time elapses, your goals may begin to seem less important to you. You may feel choked by other pressing needs and tasks that you need to carry out. In some cases, you may see others with seemingly bigger goals and you’d feel your goals are puny, compared to theirs. For example, if your goal was to buy a bicycle, your neighbor’s goal may be to buy a car. As such, you might feel your goal is not important or worthless compared to his and thus, you would not follow through with it.
4. Fear of the unknown
Most times, when we set goals, we begin to think of the risks and actions we would need to take towards achieving those goals and in most cases, we get scared of those risks. For example, if your goal was to learn a new language, you might get plagued by fearful thoughts like:
- What if it takes me years to speak this language?
- How long would it take me to hold a conversation in the language without stuttering or stumbling?
Usually, people get discouraged by these thoughts and end up not following through with their goals and completely abandoning them.
One of the reasons why you do not follow through with your set goals is probably because of perfectionism. A lot of people start out well on the route towards achieving their goals. However, they stop mid-way because they feel that they aren’t doing it right. Have you ever been given an essay to write and halfway through the essay, you stop because you feel the essay isn’t perfect?
6. Lack of focus
Most times, when we set goals, we do not give ourselves a clear direction or focus as to what to do. Often, our goals are very vague and unfocused. For example, our goal might be something like this: “I want to start my own business”.
It would be hard to follow through with this goal as this goal lacks focus and direction. When we set goals, we should break it down so as to get a clear focus of the steps we can take towards achieving those goals. I’ll dedicated a whole exercise within the Action Plan for this book to show you how to set goals the right way.
How can you follow through with your goals?
Throughout the book the author is elaborating several tactics to overcome these mentioned inhibiting tactics and psychological roadblocks. Most of them will also be part of the Action Plan you can start to apply the knowledge of the book right away. But for now, here are a few tips for following through with your goals:
We have previously established that lack of motivation is one factor that causes people not to follow through with their goals. As such, you need to create your own personal motivator.
Your motivator could be a close friend or family member who would push you towards reaching your target and ensure that you are taking the necessary steps towards achieving your goals.
Similarly, you could motivate yourself by thinking positive thoughts only instead of giving in to negativity. These positive thoughts could be in the form of words of affirmation or simply thoughts that would gear you towards achieving your set goals.
Following through with your set goals and plans is no easy task but with the right set of tools and mindset, you can actually achieve your goals without giving up or quitting.
Create a Manifesto
A manifesto is a set of rules for yourself to follow on. On your way towards your goal you will definitely stand in front of the decision of following through or giving up. If you have a set of rules the decision has already been made without any exceptions.
Rule #1 could be to ask yourself: If not for laziness or fear, would I be giving up? Answering this question makes it very clear that you are not acting out of a lack of ability or talent but simply out of laziness or taking the easy way.
Stay focused and persistent: Our daily lives are filled with distractions from all angles. However, it is highly important that you stay focused if you intend to follow through with your goals. Tiny tasks and needs may pop up every now and then, demanding your time and attention. When this happens, you need to focus completely on your set goals. Keep your eyes and mind on the ultimate goal and plan no matter how insignificant it seems.
Think about the positive effects: When we make plans, we often get plagued by negative thoughts which prevent us from following through with them. When you experience this, you need to focus on the positive effects of your goals. What impact would your plans and goals have on your life? Think about all the benefits your plans and goals would create for you and the people around you.
Stop over thinking and worrying: Everyone who has set plans is often plagued by worry and fear. Most times, we are ruined by our worries before we even begin. In order to follow through with your set goals, you need to stop worrying about your goals and how to achieve them.
Take a deep breath and tackle your goals calmly and purposefully. Take your attention away from the worries and focus on the real world. This would help you to face your goals with a clear, calm mind and follow through with them.
The Science of Smashing Procrastination
Procrastination is a major reason why you probably do not follow through with your goals. If you intend to follow through with your plans and goals, you need to avoid procrastination at all costs. You can overcome procrastination by dividing your goals into smaller tasks and accomplishments. If your goal is to write a novel by the end of the month, focus on writing two or three chapters per day. You can take short breaks in between so you would not feel overwhelmed.
Similarly, you could devise creative ways of making your goal achievement easier and more fun. One tactic mentioned in the book is Temptation Bundling. For example working out while watching your favourite show or working on a home project while listening to your favourite music. If you take the Action Plan you’ll also practice two other tactics.
No Distraction Zone
While I was reading this chapter it really kicked my ass. It uncovered how often I unconsciously followed temptations and got distracted without realising what harm it caused me. Apply the following two tactics was a real game changer for me.
No Distraction: In order to follow through you have to minimise distractions and obvious temptations. The best way to do this is to follow the ”Out of sight out of mind” principle. Minimise distractions by removing anything that is trying to grab your attention near your desk. Otherwise you’ll spend a lot of willpower to resist them.
Single-tasking is the new super power. Constantly switching tasks is very energy consuming as you always have to adjust to each new task. Even if a task is already familiar you need time to tune in again. You can easily eliminate that by adding single-tasking to your list of rules. is like a super power.
Reading this book was an excellent journey into psychology, productivity and getting things done. I learned that the art of following through is the combined effort of the following skills:
1. Focus is the skill that helps you to identify what’s really important and what’s not. It guides your thoughts and actions towards your goal and the tasks you have to complete in order to reach that goal.
2. Self-Discipline is the power that enables you to work on your tasks even if there are temptations or distractions. The ability to control yourself is essential in order to following through.
3. Action brings you closer to your goals. Actions are the visible and measurable part of following through.
4. Persistence is the last ingredient of following through. Working on your goal for a prolonged period of time although you might encounter obstacles or distractions which are trying to drag you away from that goal.