Are you someone who easily starts on a new project but you often find it difficult to finish what you start?
Most of us aren’t short on great ideas – going back to school, getting the basement redecorated, starting a business, getting fit.
But then life sort of happens and we leave unfinished projects in our wake, only to feel bad that we can never seem to reach some sort of an end.
It’s easy to feel demotivated when your mind is working against you, and that makes it even harder to finish what you start.
Especially when you then start comparing yourself to other people.
I started feeling insignificant. As if what I have to say doesn’t matter.
It looked so tempting to just give up.
But we can’t live like that.
Even when we feel as if we are insignificant, or we don’t have the right words, or we’ve never run a mile, or cooked a healthy meal before, we still owe it to ourselves to give it a shot.
And that got me thinking: I pretty much design my life every morning. We all do, whether it is a conscious act, or whether it is through our habitual thoughts and automatic patterns.
So then, how can we design our lives to stay motivated and finish what we start?
There is no short answer, but a good place to start is to know your personal values and live in alignment with them. That means to make sure that all your decisions honor your core values, and what is important to you.
Don’t expect something from yourself which is not authentic to who you are.
So, how do we finish what we start?
It’s fun to start new things.
But typically it follows a certain process.
- You get all excited about your new project
- There are lots of things to think about, research, buy, build or change and this keeps you in motion.
- Then once the foundation is in place, the upkeep comes.
It’s heady to get caught up in the excitement of creating things.
You are enthusiastic about setting yourself up. You get carried away imagining how great it’s going to be.
But after a while, you lose momentum. Daily upkeep becomes boring and you start thinking of (totally-valid-in-your-mind-anyway) reasons why this wasn’t such a cool idea.
Maybe you lose faith in your own ability to succeed when the newness wears
You lose sight of what it is that you are actually trying to do here.
And usually, that’s when you start comparing your results or efforts to that of others.
You start telling yourself that what you are doing doesn’t actually make a difference, or it is not really so good and therefore you are wasting your time.
So you shove it under the carpet and go after the next shiny object.
Imagine this. You want to run a marathon.
So reality hits and here comes the
One day you find an excuse for why you don’t need to run today. Then, 2 days later, another excuse. And again and again. Until finally, you find your shoes 4 months later, shoved into the back of the closet with only a few sad cobwebs for company.
See the big problem here?
You become focused externally and you forget WHY you actually started in the first place.
If you understand why this happens to you (and that it most likely will), it makes it easier to take care of your behaviors and habits and change your outcomes.
Remind yourself what it is that you are trying to do here. That is why setting goals and looking at them again and again,
Remember, the answer to sustained changed is to take continuous small actions.
That is why you need to set goals for yourself.
This way, you know what it is that you want (need) to do. Give yourself a deadline too. Without deadlines, we don’t have a sense of urgency to push us into action.
Warning: Instead of creating the biggest-damn-ass-goal that you can possibly think of and stopping there, rather create a smaller goal that will get you to your ultimate BIG GOAL.
So that you don’t freak yourself out by going after something which is completely outside of your domain of power of where you are *right now*.
This then is the process I suggest:
- Set small goals
- Commit to your new project and remind yourself what you are trying to achieve
- Continuously review how you have done so far, and see where you can do better / save time / be more efficient
Let’s go back to the example of running.
Big Goal: Run a half marathon
Small goal: get cute running gear and commit to an initial running schedule.
Then, once the glamour of the new outfit and super fast shoes wears off, and you’ve been keeping up with you 2 days running a week, you move onto a new
- Add 1 more day to your weekly running schedule.
- Shave 30 seconds of your existing time.
- Add another 2 miles to your distance.
You get the picture. Now you are starting to challenge yourself. This is what keeps you motivated and inspired.
A huge reason why we don’t finish what we start is because we go too big too soon.
When I started doing yoga 18 months ago, I didn’t decide I was going to do yoga every day for the rest of my life. Talk about overwhelming.
Instead, I decided to do yoga 2 days a week to start off with, and with only a few poses at that. I then gradually increased the number of poses in my workout, and the number of days.
After about 2 months I build up to a 20-minute sequence which I now do daily, without even thinking about whether I should. It has become a habit and part of my morning routine.
What if your goals change?
It happens that we start a project or follow a new interest, only to realize after a while that we really don’t want that.
Your personal values will determine whether you push through for the sake of finishing, or whether you stop and go into a new direction.
But a point to mention here is that we should never take our commitment to ourselves lightly.
Even if you do find that your priorities have changed, if you practice the habit to finish what you start, rather than abandoning projects willy-nilly it will help improve your life in incremental ways.