In a previous post, I explained one theory why we humans find following through on our intentions so difficult. According to Following Through: A Revolutionary New Model for Finishing Whatever You Start, our human brain has evolved to give us higher intelligence at the expense of our animal instinct. This disconnect allows us to over think each action before simply taking it.
Cues and Triggers for Follow Through
The Following Through book sets out a couple of different strategies toward reconnecting with that instinctual part of ourselves, including the use of cues and triggers for follow through. While I set out a quick summary of the strategy below, you will obviously benefit from the more in-depth explanation and steps set out in the book:
According to the book’s authors, we need to figure out ways to consistently cue or trigger our desire to act toward a particular goal. In this way, we will be better able to tune out distractions and keep motivated. So how do we figure out what cues or triggers to use? To get you started, try answering the following questions:
- What picture can you conjure in your head that feels motivating to you toward a particular goal?
- What cues or triggers can you use to remind yourself of this picture?
- How can you best arrange these cues/triggers to consistently remind yourself of your intention and limit your distractions?
For example, imagine you set a goal to walk your dog every morning. Start by asking yourself to imagine a time when you felt really good or inspired while getting exercise, fresh air or something similar. Keep in mind, you’re looking to fuel whatever it was that created your desire to take a walk with Fido in the first place. You might imagine a previous occasion when you took Fido for a walk when the weather was cool, the sidewalk empty, the dog happy. Maybe you felt good that you got exercise and accomplished something so early in the day. Maybe the whole experience was meditative.
Whatever you imagine, the next step is to figure out how to remind yourself of that mental picture or feeling. Maybe you could put a picture of the park you walk in on the refrigerator. You might also place your dog’s leash by your alarm clock so it is the first thing you see each morning.
Whatever your cues, figure out several and strategically surround yourself with them. You might also want to act to reduce some of your early morning distractions. For instance, if you consistently get caught up doing something else in the morning like surfing the web or checking email, you might try putting your lap top out of sight the night before.
In my experience, both individually and as a coach, this strategy does increase the likelihood of following through on an intention. It is not a cure all and may need to be tested and tweaked, but it is a step in the right direction.
What do you think?