The promises they make give you goose bumps. "Just follow these simple steps," one self-improvement program insists, "and we guarantee you’ll achieve happiness and success beyond your wildest dreams.” How can you resist? You’d have to be an idiot to not invest your time, money and hope to get incredible benefits like these.

So, you invest. But if you're like most people, there's a good chance you'll end up with disappointing results.

No problem. There are plenty of other self-improvement programs out there ready to whisper sweet nothings in your ear. So, before you know it, your hopes will again soar and your spine will again tingle. You'll again push the BUY button. This program is the one! You’re sure of it. Just as sure as you were when you bought the last program. And the one before that. And the one before that.

Welcome aboard the self-improvement merry-go-round!

The self-improvement industry both feeds and feeds off our wishful thinking. It sells programs by making promises that essentially ignore an undeniably robust feature of human nature: We humans often do a lousy job of following through! Sure, we start off with a bang. But even though we're truly motivated to do what we know we must do to achieve the results we want, we often fizzle out long before the job is done.

Please don't get the wrong idea. I'm not scolding you for failing to follow through. Far from it. As a psychologist who has devoted much of his career to studying what becomes of good intentions, I know just how normal it is to know exactly what to do - to sincerely intend to do it - and then not do it anyway. Poor follow through is just part of the normal human landscape. It's the way we are. It's the way we're wired.

Sure, there are people who do follow through. But, frankly, they are the exceptions rather than the rule. They are as rare as people who are double-jointed, can play the piano with their nose, or can spell "backwards" backwards without any hesitation. The rest of us - we "normals" - at best, have decidedly spotty follow through records.

Yes, poor follow through is a reality. And it’s a reality that causes self-improvement programs to deliver far less improvement than they promise. You know it. And the self-improvement industry knows it, too.

Until the self-improvement industry is ready to take its head out of the clouds and acknowledge and constructively address the reality of poor follow through, I’m afraid that you’re pretty much on your own. What that means is that, at the very least, it’s up to you to accurately discount the promises that self-improvement programs make.

Just as you’d be wary of setting foot inside a building that was designed by an architect who pretends that gravity doesn't exist, you should be deliberately skeptical when shopping for self-improvement programs that were designed by experts who pretend that poor follow through isn’t the enormous problem that it truly is.

So, before you press the “buy” button, ask yourself, "Honestly, what are the chances that I’ll actually do – and continue to do - the things this program will require me to do in order to achieve and maintain the results I want?" Then ask yourself, "In light of the degree to which I can realistically expect to follow through, how much benefit can I realistically expect to get - and keep - from this program?”

Actually, there’s one other thing you can do to prevent yourself from wasting your time, effort, money and hope. In fact, by doing it, you could also help improve the self-improvement industry. You can start sending – and keep on sending - the message that you’re interested in self-improvement programs that sincerely acknowledge and boldly address the reality and prevalence of poor follow through.

In other words, let the industry know that if they can’t help you follow through, they can’t help you period!

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Levinson is a clinical psychologist, author and inventor who has devoted much of his career to helping people follow through on their good intentions.

Levinson is the inventor of the MotivAider, an ingeniously simple electronic device that enables people of all ages to quickly, easily and privately change their own habits. In use in 35 countries in industries ranging from healthcare and education to business and sports, the MotivAider is an outgrowth of Levinson's breakthrough discovery of the mixed up way the mind normally treats good intentions.

Levinson teamed up with peak performance consultant Pete Greider to write the critically acclaimed book Following Through: A Revolutionary New Model for Finishing Whatever You Start. The book not only explains the surprising truth about we often do such a lousy job of following through, it offers bold new practical strategies for enabling people to do a better job of transforming their good intentions into life-improving action.