Following Through – If & Then
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Following Through – If & Then

How many times have you started a project, only to find yourself quitting or not seeing it through to completion?  There is so much momentum in the beginning, channeling an abundance of creativity and energy into your fantastic idea. Then it slowly fizzles out, and you are left with pesky thoughts that only deflate your ambitious drive forward.

Thoughts buzz through your mind:

I don’t know what to do next.

I can’t finish anything.

I don’t know-how.

What if this isn’t what I expected?

I am a failure.

This happens because we are placing our attention on how.  We want to have everything in place and the answers before we take action.

We worry about whether it’s going to work out exactly as we want it or as planned.  We fail ahead of time because this way, we know we will not make any mistakes.  Everything is calculated, and there is less risk for disappointment and discomfort, so why bother moving forward with the project?

Follow-through requires brave and bold action, which means getting out of your head and your comfort zone.

You will not feel like doing it.  Likely, you will never feel like doing it, so you might as well roll up your sleeves and do the thing.

The If-Then Strategy

Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D., Author of the Science of Success, recommends this brilliant strategy of using If-Then planning.  Instead of using sheer willpower, which we know is a limited resource and is often heavily relied upon, decide where and when the task will occur.  By determining in advance, you are removing doubt and choice overload from your decision.

The more you repeat this behavior, the easier it will become until the habit is formed.

For example, your goal is to walk 2 miles every other day for the entire month.  Today is your day to walk, and it is chilly, raining, and you are in the middle of writing this fantastic email for your newsletter.  You have decided ahead of time that you are going to walk today at 3pm.  It is not quite 3 yet, but you are already squirming at the idea of blowing it off.

How to apply If-Then

Determine the goal, in this case is walking 2 miles every day.

IF it’s 3pm on my day to walk, THEN I will stop whatever I am doing, put on my shoes and walk out the door.  There is no need to apply willpower or negotiation.  You planned ahead of time and directed your brain with a task.  The lead up to executing the task is always more challenging than doing the task.

Perhaps you are struggling with follow through on your plan.  You can apply the If-Then by stating:  If I am too tired to walk, THEN I will put my shoes on anyway, walk out my door, and see how I feel.

What are you making it mean?

When you don’t follow through, you may create some mind drama and make it mean something about you and your abilities, which makes it feel even worse.  When you decide to take action and work on creating results that move you towards your goal, notice how you feel about yourself and your decision.  It may feel difficult, and some negative emotions will surface.  Either way, you will feel discomfort, so why not choose the latter while getting the results you desire.

Another strategy to ease into this process is to pick one easy task and focus on following through from start to finish.  Choose something that you have wanted to do and is easily attainable.  Decide you are going to finish no matter what.  Write it down, share it with your tribe or someone you know will help you stay accountable.  Tell your brain that is what you are focusing on because energy flows where intention goes.

Make an appointment with yourself

Take that intention and schedule it on your calendar within the next 24 hours (using your If-Then strategy).  You do not have to finish the task in the next 24 hours; however, take action no matter what.  This is an essential part of following through by creating evidence that you can do the work.  Think about this block of time as if it were a necessary appointment or meeting you must participate in.  Not only are you taking action, but you are also creating trust in yourself.

Building this level of trust provides a tremendous boost in your confidence and ability to follow through.

It’s like when you work a muscle; the more you strengthen it, the more memory you will have.  The task is scheduled on the calendar.  Now it is time to implement.  Your mind will start telling you to do something else, you will want to procrastinate and come up with all the excuses.  Push through them and focus on your plan. You made the decision, committed to the task. Now it is time to create your results by thinking, believing and acting with intention and purpose.