People with follow­through say what they mean, mean what they say, and do what they said they would do. People with the follow-through trait practice self-control and spend a lot less time struggling with temptation or decision making. They pick the best plan to reach their goal, then follow through with the actions that will deliver the results they are after.

You don’t have to be born with this skill to develop it, but practice is essential. It comes from having a clear objective and steady, reliable habits that support your actions. I should know. This trait was one of the hardest for me to learn. Today, it is one of the skills I value most.

I attended a Montessori school when I was young, and I was, as my mother used to say, “a mentally floaty child,” meaning that I was easily distracted and had a difficult time staying on track. The Montessori school was a good fit because it allowed me to choose what I wanted to learn first, but I still had to learn how to stay on track and study properly to avoid getting bad grades.

My parents let me take a summer study program when I was fifteen, which helped tremendously, but it wasn’t until I moved from Texas to California to go to college that I really learned the importance of follow­through. Once I got to college, I saw how expensive tuition, books and classes were, and that got my attention. I wasn’t going to waste a dime on bad grades. That’s when those study skills became priceless. They paid off.

Today, friends and family often compliment me on my self-discipline, and they are surprised when I explain that this trait didn’t come naturally but is a result of dedication and practice.

Making a commitment is serious business. Successful people realize that sticking to a decision, making a commitment, or setting a goal sometimes comes with sacrifices. Being willing to make sacrifices is the flip side of follow-through. Sometimes you have to forgo other opportunities if you want to keep promises. Part of being good at follow-through is remembering to review what’s already on your plate.

When you practice follow-through, you treat your commitments with the respect they deserve, which earns you trust, admiration and a stellar reputation. And when one of those commitments is becoming more fit, you will actually get there—and stay there, too!

Check out Joel Harper’s website, or click here to buy his book, Mind Your Body: 4 Weeks to a Leaner, Healthier Life.

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