Much of the stress that people feel doesn’t come from having too much to do. It comes from not finishing what they’ve started. David Allen
I’m not sure I totally believe him, because dang, I have a lot to do every morning, but—you knew there’d be one didn’t you?—looking back on my life I realize it has been a journey toward learning how to finish what I started.
Maybe there are people who are born knowing how to finish. Or they are born too stubborn to stop until they finish. While I will admit to being stubborn, I was not always a successful finisher. David Allen is exactly right when he says that stress comes from not finishing. There is a lot of stress because unfinished tasks and projects love to lurk at the edges of our minds, stealing our energy and concentration.
If the word quit is part of your vocabulary, then the word finish is likely not. B.G. Jett
But there is something even more insidious than stress, in my humble opinion. There is an undertow that tries to drag us down, getting stronger each time one stops before completion. It spawns voices in your head, voices that tell you that you can’t do it this time either, that maybe you’ll never be a finisher. That maybe you shouldn’t even try.
I think I mentioned I’m stubborn, and my family will echo a hearty, heck yes on that. Was it stubborn kicking on the afterburners or my personal aha moment? I’m really not sure. I do know there was a point in my life when I realized that it wouldn’t ever get easier. That it was never going to be easy, but it could keep getting harder. That the forces aligned against me (most of them inside me) would only get stronger, while my will to finish could grow steadily weaker.
It terrified me to realize it this. And that ignited my inner stubborn.
A lot of things can keep us from finishing, can stall us out shortly after the start, or bog us down in the middle. Most of those things happen inside our own heads. We are often our own worst enemy.
The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot. Michael Altshuler
When I decided that I was going to finish a whole novel or die trying (cause, you know writing is life threatening!), I did some truly cliche, possibly even hokey things to help me cross that finish line. None of it involved tutus or girdles, but I did have to change the messages I told myself.
Back then the voice in my head said: No one cares. The world does not need another writer. You have nothing interesting to say about anything. Who are you to write a book?
It’s wonderful if we have a support group, people to cheer us on, but sometimes our hopes are so tiny, so small, we are reluctant—or not ready—to share them with even our closest family or friends. Because if we fail again then they’ll all know it again.
And sometimes family can say supportive things, while unconsciously displaying non-supportive body language. Or maybe we can’t believe them because we don’t believe in ourselves. Besides, they love us, so of course they think we’re wonderful. (American Idol anyone?)
Sometimes the people who love us don’t want us to get hurt or be disappointed, so they try to “help” us trim back our hopes and dreams.
I will admit that when my daughters decided they wanted to run I was kind of horrified. I quit running when my big brothers quit chasing me. Running was for fleeing, not for fun. At first, all I could see was how much it hurt them to run. And then, finally, I started to really see their smiles at the end when they’d finished their races. I was so focused on their pain, I almost missed their joy. I am glad I can see it now. 🙂
So here are my tips for finishing:
1. Change what you tell yourself. I wrote down the wrong messages I was telling myself, then I changed them to positives, and taped them to my mirror and above my desk. And when I lapsed back into mean to myself, I trotted out my positives until the negative messages got less insistent. (I told you it was hokey, but it worked.)
2. Learn to see past the pain to the joy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people stop themselves before they even start by saying, “That looks hard.” Or: “That’s so hard.” Of course it’s hard, but look at their eyes! Look at their smiles! See the glow! Don’t miss out on that. It is amazing. It is so worth it.
3. Watch Chariots of Fire. If nothing else, the music will inspire you and if the stories of those two men don’t give you a boost, well, you wouldn’t be happy if you were hung with a new rope.
I’ve learned that finishing a marathon isn’t just an athletic achievement. It’s a state of mind; a state of mind that says anything is possible. John Hanc
I thought I’d finish with finishing, but I realized that a) this blog is long and b) I have more to say about what happens after finishing. So if I the idea gets big enough for a blog, I hope you’ll check back next week. And I hope you’ve enjoyed my mini-series.
So, what do you think? Any tips to share on how you finish? What inspires you? Gets you to dig deep and keep going when your trash is getting kicked? All comments are entered into my monthly drawing for $10 AnaBanana gift card. Winner is announced in the first blog post of the new month.
Perilous Pauline is amazed she has finished thirteen novels and some short stories and other stuff! When she started, it didn’t seem possible. Find out more about her books and her writing journey on her website at paulinebjones.com.