Following through is getting harder. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I can’t, or I don’t, it’s just that it takes a lot more energy now. What was once automatic for me now takes real discipline.
It wasn’t always like this. In my 20’s I read War and Peace (1,000 pages), as well as the complete works of Charles Dickens. I could spend hours deeply focused and loving every page without even once thinking of stopping. Now, when a post is listed as a “7-minute read” I literally pause to decide if it’s worth it.
I’m not sure what’s happening, but I’m certain it’s not good. Because the things that matter most in my life will almost always require focus and a willingness to stay present, whether it’s a heart-felt conversation with a friend, getting impactful words on paper, or keeping a promise. Following through is a capacity I’m going to need as a spouse, a parent, a writer, and a friend for the rest of my life. I don’t want to lose it.
Just today, I felt this pull to give up during my workout with the battle ropes (I have a love/hate relationship with this coiled torture device). I was tired and uncomfortable, and started to think “that’s good enough.” And I think that’s the problem.
Because once I start quitting, I know what will happen. That decision will get easier and easier to make. Before long, I’ll stop believing in my ability to see anything all the way through. Even worse, so will the people who depend on me.
But here’s the good news. The solution is really simple. Just keep going.
That’s right. The surest way to succeed is to be willing to try just a little more, try one more time to ignore how far it is to your goal, and instead double down on the small step in front of you. Remember, enthusiasm is common, but endurance is rare. If we want to be someone who follows through, we don’t need a complex formula or a dozen rules. All we really have to do is build our endurance by staying with it a little longer, even when we’re tired.
The Navy Seals have a “40% rule” which means when you think you’re done, you’re likely at only 40% of your capacity. Think about that for a moment. When we first feel like quitting, we’ve still got 60% of our capacity in the tank. If you’re skeptical, reduce it by half – you’ve still got 30% of your capacity left. Imagine what we could do if we could tap into that reserve?
Whatever the percentage, one thing is certain: if we put limits on everything we do, physical or anything else, it will eventually spread into every area of our work and our lives.
So, if you’re ready to build your endurance for following through, here are 4 practices that are helping me:
3. Keep Track - my dear friend, Jeff Downs, has helped me to see the power of “streaking” through his remarkable book and app. I keep a simple tracking of how often I do what I set out to do. No complex analytics – just “yes” or “no” – I did it, or I didn’t. At the end of each day, I happily check off my accomplishments and try to learn when I fall short. This 5-minute process fuels my sense of accomplishment.
Intention without commitment has no impact. Commitment without completion has no satisfaction.
Build your capacity to follow through and there is nothing you can’t do.
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