Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.
— Arthur Ashe
Have trouble finishing what you start? Think about this.

Have trouble finishing what you start? Think about this.


What is it that makes us give up? Why is it that sometimes, we lose the motivation to follow through with our goals, our dreams, or our commitments? According to Statistic Brain, only 9.2% of people who make New Year's Resolutions actually feel like they successfully accomplish those resolutions.

Making commitments, setting goals, and pursuing dreams are all good things, but totally worthless without the follow-through.

In what areas of your life do you lack follow-through? Here are some thoughts to help you be better at finishing what you start:

Don't start what you know you won't finish.

Saying yes to something is saying no to something else.

I can't begin to tell you how much I don't like this phrase. I don't like it, and I don't want it to be true, because I want to say yes to everything.

But one thing I have realized is that something is always sacrificed. When it comes to life's pursuits, quantity is inversely related to quality. That is, the more things we do, the less excellence, commitment, and follow-through we are able to give to each of those things. Whether it is the quality of our relationships, or our health, or our work - if we cannot put a limit on quantity, then quality will suffer.

I am not saying that our lives cannot or should not be full, or that we must somehow choose only one thing at a time. However, the ability to follow through starts with prioritizing - namely, prioritizing what we want most above and against what we might want now. When I realize that what I want to do now (aka "everything") is counterproductive to what I want to do most (aka important things), it becomes a little easier to choose quality over quantity.

Make commitments thoughtfully. Don't commit to doing something just because you feel like you "should." Remember, everything you say "yes" to is an automatic "no" to something else. Make sure your yes always counts.

What are some things you've committed to out of obligation, either from others or from yourself? Pick at least one thing you can start saying "no" to. Decide now that you will value your yes enough to carefully consider extra commitments in the future.

Don't run a race you're not ready for.

It's generally not wise to run the Iron Man when you've never successfully run a mile. One of my favorite poems is:

Have you heard of tiny Melinda Mae, Who ate a monstrous whale? She thought she could, She said she would, So she started in right at the tail. And everyone said,'You're much too small,' But that didn't bother Melinda at all, She took little bites and she chewed very slow, Just like a little girl should... ...and eighty-nine years later she ate that whale Because she said she would!

Melinda Mae by Shel Silverstein

The only way to eat a whale is one bite at a time.

Make an honest assessment of the size of the commitment or goal you are making. Are you ready to jump head in and finish what you've started? Or are there some steps you're skipping? Cutting corners and skipping steps will make it that much harder for you to finish what you've started.

Count the cost.

One of the biggest lessons I am learning is that it's not enough to set a goal or make a commitment and then kind of wander in that general direction. If I am going to follow through with what I set out to do, then I'm going to have to have a plan for how to get there.

There are things I want to do that require me to do other things first. I can't just put cookies in the oven. First, I need to gather the ingredients and combine the right amounts of them in the right way. If I'm going to follow through on what I set out to do, I've got to have a practical idea of how I'm going to do that.

What are some things you've thoughtfully committed to, but haven't made a plan for finishing or doing well? Sit down today and make a plan. What steps will it take for you to get there? Write them down. Then, prioritize those baby steps!

Take responsibility.

A dream doesn't become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination, and hard work. - Colin Powell

Taking responsibility happens in the little everyday choices that either build toward your goal, or take away from it. These choices often seem harmless, and often individually they are - but collectively, they add up. Taking responsibility means stewarding your resources and making them work toward your goals.

If we set out to do something, we have to take responsibility for it. We have to have some level or sense of ownership. A thing only remains a priority so long as we make it a priority. Taking responsibility means actually taking the steps necessary to execute our plans.

Where have you not taken responsibility for following through? What steps can you take right now to develop a sense of ownership in all areas of your life?

Remind yourself daily of the vision.

In order to carry a positive action, we must develop here a positive vision. - Dalai Lama

We cannot carry the weight of our goals, dreams, or commitments without vision. The worst thing that can happen to our dreams is for us to lose sight of why we wanted them in the first place. If we start to believe that our goal is meaningless or obsolete, then it certainly will be. If we lose heart, then we have already quit.

I think that the greatest cure for burnout or a lack of motivation is a consistently renewed vision.

It isn’t good enough to simply keep the goal fresh in our minds. We must also remember the reason for the goal. If we lose our belief in what we are doing, then both the what and the how begin to completely unravel.

Where do you need a renewed vision? How can you daily remind yourself of the why behind what you are working toward? Write down your why, and put it where you will see it.

Be flexible.

When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don't adjust the goals, adjust the action steps. - Confucious

Sometimes our plans don’t work out. But if we are going to follow through, letting failure paralyze us is a luxury we simply can't afford. If we are ever going to see anything through, we must be flexible. We must learn to change my course of action, to adapt, to overcome obstacles or find a way around them.

We must acknowledge our obstacles, but only long enough to find a way to level them.

Know that you have not "arrived," and you never will.

It is easy, when you are young, to believe that what you desire is no less than what you deserve, to assume that if you want something badly enough, it is your God-given right to have it. - John Krakauer

Perhaps the second-worst thing that can happen to our dreams is for us to begin to believe that we somehow inherently deserve them. If we accept this kind of entitlement mentality, then when our plans begin to fail, we will become paralyzed and inflexible, and our energy will be spent on resenting the world for not giving us what we want, rather than overcoming obstacles or coming up with a new plan.

I think this is especially dangerous once we have reached a level of success in our pursuits. If I experience some success and then begin to believe that I deserve that success simply because I wanted it so much, or even because I worked hard for it, I will slowly lose respect for the responsibility I have taken on.

Where are you guilty of an entitlement mentality? How can you change your patterns of thinking and instead begin to focus on what kind of legacy you want to leave behind on earth?

Where do you struggle with follow-through? Pick one or two areas above that stand out to you and have an honest moment with yourself. Where are you sacrificing quality for quantity? What positive changes can you make today to finish what you start?

Little by little, make those changes.


5 free resources for the lifelong learner.

5 free resources for the lifelong learner.

How to be the boss of your day.

How to be the boss of your day.