How to Follow Through on Commitments: Simple Skills

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Success Principles" by Jack Canfield. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do you tend to follow through on commitments or quit halfway? How do you feel when you fail to stick it through? What do you think is stopping you from seeing things to completion?

Making agreements and delivering on them is an important skill for successful people. When you fail to follow through, you risk losing the trust and respect of those around you. Subconsciously or consciously, you may start to doubt your capabilities, which can erode your self-worth.

This article will discuss how to follow through on commitments and ensure you deliver.

Delivering on Agreements Is About Integrity

When you deliver on an agreement, you demonstrate that you have the integrity to see commitments through to completion. Yet we sometimes hit roadblocks and fail to deliver. There are three common reasons for failure:

  • You’re pressed for time. You may agree to do something and not be able to deliver because you’re too busy or lose track of what you agreed to do amid your other commitments or responsibilities.
  • You don’t want to draw attention to yourself. Though you could’ve negotiated an agreement that fit better with what you’re capable of delivering, it’s easier to agree to the original terms than to draw attention to yourself through adjustments.
  • You don’t like confrontation. It’s easier to agree to do something than say you can’t do it and upset someone.

How to Follow Through on Your Commitments

Here are two tips to follow through on your commitments:

  1. Only commit to things you can deliver on. By being selective about your commitments, you ensure you don’t take on too many things or things outside of your capabilities. To do this, give yourself time to decide whether you’re going to do something, and be honest with yourself about whether you can deliver in the time frame specified. Canfield suggests writing “no” on each page of his calendar to remind himself that it’s acceptable to say no if taking on something new might deprive him of things he already enjoys. 
  2. Record your commitments. Use paper or digital calendars, reminders, or other tools to keep track of your timeline so that you don’t forget.

If you discover you’re not going to be able to keep your agreement, let the other person know as soon as possible so you can negotiate a new one. For example, if your car won’t start, immediately make arrangements to reschedule the meeting.

Motivate Yourself to Fulfill Your Commitments: Martin Rutte’s Story

Sometimes it’s helpful to create a significant consequence for not meeting a commitment to motivating you to fulfill it. For example, Martin Rutte wanted to learn to do a high dive, but he’d been reluctant to practice because he was afraid. To move past his fear and achieve his goal, he created a big incentive: If he didn’t learn how to do a high dive by a certain date and time, he’d donate $1,000 to the Ku Klux Klan. Because Rutte was Jewish, the incentive to avoid making the donation motivated him to reach his goal.

How to Follow Through on Commitments: Simple Skills

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  • The 67 principles to help anyone achieve their goals and dreams
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  • How to take responsibility for your own life

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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