Being able to take a project all the way to completion is critical in your journey. To be able to call something fully “finished’ is a gift. Finishing allows you to lighten your loads and recommit to something new in your life. Life continues to teach us the same thing until we learn the lesson. Being able to reach a goal in totality will help you learn those lessons much faster.
Finishing isn’t easy though. I know many artists, authors, entrepreneurs, and potential world changers who have the ability to make their mark but often do not. Finishing in the way they intend to is difficult for them. Finishing is not just getting it (whatever “it” is for you) done. Finishing is getting it done in the way that you set out to and in a way that has integrity and character. The act of finishing is an ability I’ve had to learn over time, and am still in the process of learning.
Why is Finishing So Important?
That seems like a pretty softball question, doesn’t it? If you do not finish, you will not have anything to show for the time you spend. You can give hours, weeks, months, years, even decades to causes that are important to you personally, but if you don’t finish, you’ll have missed out on the best part.
The point of any effort is not the goal behind it – it is the journey. This is true: at the end of the tunnel, you will not remember the light; you will remember all of the times you fell getting there and the people that helped you along the way. So why does it matter if you finish if you have extracted value from the journey? Couldn’t you be satisfied with the experience?
Of course you could be satisfied with the value of however far the journey takes you. There is nothing wrong with that. You are sure to have grown in the process and begun to grok more deeply. Failure is an exquisitely powerful tool for growth. But while growth happens throughout the entire course of a journey, the most fantastic growth and self learning comes in the last 10-20% of it.
This is called the Pareto Principle. It states that 80% of the value comes from 20% of the work. Tim Ferris is a huge proponent of this in his book, The Four Hour Work Week. He said that 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your customers. This simple principles applies to many areas of your life, including the value you gain from finishing.
The last 20% can be the last 10% or the last 1%. It is the time where you are forced to give your all in pursuit of a goal. It is when you push your edges and maybe do more than you knew was possible. That experience is where the true growth involved with fully finishing a project comes from.
Most of the time people don’t get to experience that final push. It is so easy to not finish, especially when it is a goal or project for ourselves. Before we look at how to actually cross the finish line, we need to figure out why we continue to not finish.
Why Don’t We Finish?
In my own struggles and failures, I’ve learned many reasons that keep me from finishing. The most simple is that the journey becomes too difficult and my resolve weakens. I’ve crumbled under that more times than I can count. I believe we all have.
This happens when we commit to becoming fit and healthy, but it is too hard to exercise regularly and it is so easy to eat crap when we’re out. This happens when you start a creative project – your band’s next CD, having an opening at a gallery with your own artwork, finding that perfect investment – and once the initial enthusiasm wears off, the gusto goes nowhere.
So what are some of the reasons that you do not finish? Take a look at the following reasons and see if any ring true for you.
You are even more afraid to succeed than you are to fail.
Wait, what? I thought the entire point of finishing was to succeed? It is! But that doesn’t stop anyone from being afraid to succeed. Failing (as in giving up – giving your all and not making it is different) is easy. It means maintaining the status quo, not rocking the boat and not making the changes you know you are capable of. Succeeding is not only difficult in terms of getting to the finish line. It is also difficult to be open to what success and finishing means for our lives.
When you succeed and when you fail while giving your all, you are expanding your limits. You are coming face to face with the full measure of power inside you, and that is scary. That is raw, untapped potential. It can be difficult to look at because it asks you the question, “Why haven’t I tapped into this before?”
Finishing while giving your all upsets the status quo. It is an earthquake to the bedrock of the status quo because it means that things will not stay the same for very long. Once you see your power and can embrace your power, then you are going to do incredible things. Doing so will not be easy and that pisses the status quo off. Squash it’s objections, don’t listen to it. Getting through your fear of success is getting through your fear of your own potential. Own what you are truly capable of. Once you do that, the world is unlimited.
You did not commit to giving your all.
Have you ever taken on a task that you were only partially excited for? Maybe you had doubts about the goal, maybe you had doubts about your ability to make it, or maybe you just had too much on your plate already – so you weren’t sure how much you were going to be able to give. Your reasoning behind it doesn’t matter. You were not able to commit to giving your all or what it would take to get it done. Without such a commitment, not finishing is usually the only outcome possible.
You start what you are not committed to finishing.
Does this sound very similar to the last reason to you? It is, but the difference is that this is awareness based while the last was effort based. You have so much going on right now between your friends, family, work, education, organizations you are involved in and the changes you are committed to making in your own life.
So why would you tack on an extra task that you are not committed to? Why put an extra obligation on your time when you already don’t have enough for yourself? When you do this, you are afraid to say no to starting. I’m not saying do not start something which will provide value to your life. I’m saying that you need to be aware of the full extent of what such a commitment entails.
Do not start a project unless you have truly examined whether you have the capacity to follow through with it. Reflect on where you are now in life, and where you would be at the end of such a project. Do you have the time and the energy to commit to it? If the answer is not yes, you need to be able to set a boundary and to say no – for yourself and for those around you.
You did not think it through at the outset.
You were offered an opportunity to be involved in an amazing new project or idea. The benefits sounded amazing, so you hopped on board without really analyzing what it would take to cross the finish line. So when the going got tough, you said, “I didn’t know it was going to be this hard.” Or maybe you said, “No one told me this is what it would be like.”
Either way, there was a lack of reflection on what you were getting yourself into. Without full awareness, we are not able to give full presence or effort. Without it, we cannot finish.
Life got in the way.
Life happens to all of us. The reasons that life gives us to not finish are spectacular, valid, and truthful, but that does not keep them from preventing you from finishing. Bills came up, crises happened, investors bailed, other things became a priority, etc. The worst part is, everyone around you will agree with you. You are the only one who can keep yourself from falling into this trap.
No matter how true any of your life reasons are, the fact remains that their impact on you was a choice. Life will always get in the way if you let it. Life is both an obstacle to finishing and an opportunity to grow by testing your resolve.
You did not prepare well enough.
When you first begin something, it is so tempting to just dive in without being prepared. Sometimes that is effective and your enthusiasm is enough to bring you through. As you begin to tackle larger and larger projects, it will not be enough, and maybe you’ve run into that. Huge projects require great planning to pull off. Maybe there was information you needed that you didn’t have, you didn’t account for the time it would take, or any other variety of reasons. The point is, you were not prepared, so you were not able to finish.
You went it alone.
One of the hardest realizations to come across (sometimes especially for men) is the awareness that you aren’t able to do everything alone. You’re going to need help. No matter how good you are, eventually you will be a part of something bigger than you. If you do not reach out to others, you are not going to be able to finish. This is not saying you are not enough. It is saying that if you want to finish, you need to utilize your skills to involve others as well.
How are you feeling right now after reading that list of reasons? Did any of them ring true for you? If there are other reasons that you’ve experienced, please share them in the comments.
How Do We Finish?
So how do you get to the point where you are finishing the tasks that you set out to do? What are some tools for getting across that finish line when it seems like the odds are stacked against you?
Lets dig in.
Commit In Public
Share your commitments with others. Talk about them when someone asks you how you’re doing. Really put yourself out there as being committed your goal. By sharing it with other people, you are doing two things. You are making yourself accountable to that other person and you are reminding yourself of your own commitments. Both are important to finishing.
When you share your commitment, make sure that you do it to at least one person that you know will keep you accountable. Perhaps even someone that you would feel bad letting down. This will add extra weight to your commitments and help keep you going.
Create a Regular Practice
Ever heard the saying, “Perfection is achieved through the pattern of persistent practice,”? Alright, neither have I. I’ve heard something similar and my memory botched it (and I love alliteration). This is true though. The more regularly you are involved in something, the more likely you are to follow through.
Creating a regular practice for yourself will keep you working consistently. Set a weekly or daily schedule for yourself. Commit to that schedule fully. On this blog, I make it my practice to post every Monday, Thursday and Saturday. That is my practice, and I stick to it.
When you are not aware of the choices you are making, is when you will fail to make the choices you want to. A good practice to promote awareness around your goal is to create a schedule of checking in. Spend time at least once a week (even better once a day) looking at the progress you’ve made and the next actions you will take. The more aware you are of what it takes to finish, the more likely you are to make it through that last 20%.
If you truly want to finish, you’re going to need to say no more than you are now. Say no to projects or tasks that will not serve you. Say no to new obligations that will take away from your time to finish. Saying no is not offensive, it is merely honoring your own boundaries. Say no to the aspects of your life that are not serving you and make a change.
The sooner you start saying no, the sooner you will begin finishing what you want to.
This goes back to the reasons people often do not finish: they do not know what it will take to finish. Before you undertake any new project, spend some preliminary time just looking at what it will take to get it done.
What are the biggest necessary actions you will have to take? How long will they take you? Be as clear as possible at the outset so that you have the highest chances of finishing possible.
Going it alone is difficult and lonely. When you ask for help from others, you find partners. These are your co-conspirators (if you’re feeling devious). Working with people has many benefits. You can delegate critical tasks and share the load across a group. The energy is synergistically higher when you are around others (or lower depending on the group, so choose carefully).
Most of all, when you ask for help, you get feedback. This feedback is extremely helpful because it allows you to chart your course and monitor your progress. The sooner you ask for help, the sooner you will be trotting across that finish line.
Onward and Upward
Now go finish something! Or at least take a look at what you’re currently working on and see how the information here can help you finish it.
I’d love to hear about the obstacles you run into when you move to finish something. How do you overcome those obstacles?