Say, Do and Follow Through
by Carol Kuykendall
“Character is the ability to follow through on a resolution long after the emotion with which it was made has passed.” ~Anonymous
I recently set a goal for myself and enthusiastically announced it to everyone around me. In celebration of an upcoming milestone birthday, I plan to run/walk a half marathon. Me, a cancer survivor, who has out-lived my life expectancy. Me, who hasn’t even run around the block in years. Me, who by most standards is definitely old.
It’s been fun to talk about it. But now I’m facing the hardest part: the follow through! Carrying out my intention. Doing what I said I would do. That means training — even when I don’t want to — so that on the day of the race, I can reach the finish line.
Saying is easy. Doing is harder. That’s the follow through. I declare I will lose ten pounds before that high school reunion. Or I will read the Bible straight through in a year. Good intentions. A strong start. But I don’t reach the finish line. I don’t follow through.
Why? Often I lack the will power. Other times, I just plain forget about a commitment. I snap a cute picture of a friend’s child and promise to send her a copy. But I don’t. I get an e-mail request to write a letter of recommendation for someone. I quickly respond, “Yes,” and then move on, seeing the deadline is a month away. But soon that e-mail gets buried by other ones and slips down the screen. The problem is, the promise also slips my mind. I said, but didn’t do.
So what have I learned after all these years about say, do and follow through?
Say: Say what you mean. The Bible tells us to “let your yes be yes …” which means I need to think before I declare that “I’ll pray for you.” Or promise that “I’ll call and we’ll get our families together soon.” Will I? Is that even do-able? Or is it just an easy way to end a conversation?
Do: Do what you say. I have to create systems that help me do what I said I’d do. One busy mom keeps a large “To Do” list near her computer to track her commitments. I use little yellow sticky notes. Accountability helps. When I tell others I’m doing a half marathon, I increase my commitment because I’ll be embarrassed to wimp out. I systemize my training by printing out a daily schedule that keeps me on target. A food journal does the same for dieters — systemizes the progress.
Follow Through: This is still the toughest part. It’s about pushing through the hard places. My 5-year-old granddaughter decided to run with me one recent day. She started out explosively fast but soon slowed and said, “Oma, my brain is telling me to stop.” Later she said, “Oma, now my whole body is telling me to stop.” Her words make me smile — and keep pushing me on, even when my brain and body tell me to stop. I know that’s the only way to follow through and reach the finish line.
Carol Kuykendall is a Consulting Editor for MOMSense Magazine, the author of "Five Simple Ways to Grow a Great Family" and co-author of "What Every Mom Needs", available at MOPShop.org.