The Connection Between Follow-Through and Confidence

Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” -Dale Carnegie

I break promises.

I have broken my word countless times in my life, mostly without malice. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t.

It can be simple things, like changing my mind about going out with my friend’s weird cousin. Or saying I’m going to eat clean only to find myself standing in line, asking for extra jalapenos on my sub that same evening. I didn’t hit the gym as hard as I told myself I would yesterday. Beast mode: Off.

I forgot I ever even intended to read Blue Ocean Strategy. But I still have my copy of the book if you want to read it.

We all do it. We make plans in the moment with the expectation that our future selves will be onboard to deliver when the time comes. Only, that date comes and the future self goes, “You signed me up for what?”

It can happen to anyone at any time.

We live in a culture that rewards busyness. A few years ago, entrepreneurs were striving to work smarter not harder, fighting to restrict their work lives to a few hours on the computer every Thursday and a 40-minute Skype call with an assistant in the Philippines early Monday mornings.

Then the tide turned. Now, the mantra is “Hustle!” Work hard. Work more. Get your own followers on social media, and answer their queries one-by-one from 2AM to 4AM every night, if you must. Just get stuff done!

It’s easy to get swept away in the hype of being someone who delivers. Or, at least being someone who hopes to deliver. Many of us know all too well, that when it comes right down to it, there’s a chance we simply won’t do what we said we would.

Not for Lack of Motivation

Therein lies my problem. One of the key indicators of future success is the ability to make wise choices now and follow through on them later.

What I want to do, I do not do. Not for lack of motivation. I want to help. I want to do what I said I would. But sometimes, for whatever reason, I simply don’t.

Leadership coach and author, Peter Bregman describes the distinctionbetween motivation and follow-through this way: “Motivation is in the mind; follow-through is in practice.”

That means it’s possible to be 100% on fire about something… and still not do it. You can spend an hour watching Gary Vaynerchuk’s DailyVee, then spend 15 minutes yelling from the bottom of your stomach, “Thank God it’s Monday!” with Dr. Eric Thomas. In the end, none of that means anything; if you’re not doing the things you want and intend to do, more motivation is not the fix.

Decide Then Do

“Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.” — Thomas Jefferson

As it turns out, the fix for lack of follow through is just following through. Just as the remedy for being afraid of water is to get into the water. Following through is an act of the will. Once you make a decision to do something, you do it at the appointed time and you ignore the nagging voice inside that will inevitably try to convince you you’re too tired, too busy, too bored, or too whatever to keep your word.

I’m afraid there’s no magic bullet and no three-step process. There’s just the work. And perhaps, because of the scope of the promise you made, lots of it.

Draw a Line in the Sand…

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” Warren Buffett

I think more damning than not meeting your goals because you won’t follow through is the knowledge that we are also measuring our own worth by our behavior.

Ideals like honesty, integrity, and reliability are the cornerstones of building strong personal and professional relationships. And for that reason, those same ideals are the bar by which we measure our own relevance, importance, and worth.

Every single time you make a declaration, whether to yourself or to another person, you draw a line in the sand. Sitting on top of that line is your integrity.

I’ve heard it said that integrity is doing what’s right when no one’s looking. Dr. Henry Cloud says integrity is “the courage to meet the demands of reality.” My definition of integrity is a little different. Integrity to me is the full alignment of your thoughts, words, and actions… in that order.

It’s the reason we can feel some measure of respect for a gangster who refuses to let even the smallest instance of disrespect slip by un-“dealt with.”

…. Or Your Confidence Will Take the Hit

“If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life.” — Marcus Garvey

Each time you say you will do something, but fail to follow through, you chip away at your integrity. This size of the chip varies in proportion to how important you think the activity was that you skipped out on. One or two small things that went undone would hardly impact most of us. But the more of those little chips we allow, the more damage we do to our integrity.

Who do you become when the people around you think you lack integrity? What is your brand then? If people cannot trust your words, what is your business worth to them? And how can you ever expect to build intimate or collaborative relationships without the mutual trust of the people around you?

That’s the underlying danger of failing to follow through. Not following through quickly starts to eat away at your confidence. And confidence is little more than self-trust. It’s a belief in your ability to take care of yourself, take care of others, and successfully meet both the opportunities and the challenges of life head-on.

When you cannot trust yourself and others choose not to trust you, you’re demoralized. It doesn’t matter who you are or how you camouflage this failure of basic human connection. No matter where in the world you go, demoralized people are not confident people.

When you don’t trust yourself, your confidence wanes. When your confidence wanes, you begin making weird substitutions. Instead of being confident, you become arrogant or dismissive, or cocky, or eccentric, or ridiculously fashionable.

Don’t be that guy. Don’t become the guy in the scarf and skinny corduroys with a side-part, unless that’s really your thing.

We have all been in situations where our excitement in the moment obligated us to something we had no desire to do later. Most of us have experienced the pain of wanting to do something and not doing it, for no particular reason at all.

For anyone who has made a habit of not following through on their promises, here is your simple fix: Do it anyway. That’s how you rack up brownie points with others. More importantly, that’s how you rack up brownie points with yourself.

So, in all you do, play to win, or don’t play at all.

First published on Millennial Milk