I realized something about myself that I am curious about. I realized I am really good at starting things, but often not so good at finishing them. This isn’t always the case, but more often than not. I don’t want to be that way because not finishing things leaves me stuck where I have always been and sometimes even moves me backwards. I want to be someone who finishes strong in everything I do, someone who keeps moving towards second base without always running back to the comfort of first base.
What things do I finish well? The first thing that comes to mind is school. I finished my Bachelor’s degree online without taking any extended time off once I started the program. After I finished that, I went on and completed my Master’s degree the same way. That got me wondering if finishing had something to do with the cost associated with school. I don’t think that is the case though because I am currently taking two online classes that are free and I am staying on task and just as committed to these classes as I was to the classes I was paying for. Something else I completed was training for and completing the Breast Cancer 3-Day walk about 5 years ago, which involved walking over 60 miles in 3 days.
Other things I finish well are projects with a clear deadline, tasks I feel confident about, or tasks that are just part of a normal routine: things like doing the dishes, picking out clothes for day, paying bills (most of the time), various tasks at work, sitting with a hospice patient I see weekly, and for almost two months now, tracking my food intake everyday.
So, what things have I started and not finished? Several projects and tasks at work continue to get moved around on my desk without being completed. I have numerous quilting projects in the works, along with two different cross-stitch projects and another needlework project. I went to a coaching certification class and haven’t done anything really significant with what I learned there. I started working on improving my relationship with my husband by making attempts to communicate more and better, and to look more at what I need to change or improve in myself. I went back to putting up a wall by keeping my thoughts and feelings to myself, and recently started working on improvements again. I have started working on getting fit and getting to a healthy weight more times than I can even count and have never made it to a point yet where I feel like I have finished what I started. I have started exercising regular on numerous occasions, and then fallen back to not working out at all or only working out sporadically. I have started and not finished balancing bank statements for a business my husband and I run. I set a goal of doing one blog post per week and did okay with that for a few weeks and then stopped posting regularly. I have also started and not stuck with various routines for taking better care of myself.
I think a good place to start sorting this out is by looking at what are the costs and benefits of starting, finishing, and stopping somewhere in between.
One of the benefits of starting something new is that it is a new chance to succeed. I feel a sense of excitement and determination and I like those feelings. The possibility of achieving something or crossing something off my to-do list is a benefit for me. Growing as a person and learning something new are benefits. The costs include being unsure if I can complete what is in front of me, sometimes feeling overwhelmed by all that I add to my to-do list, and risking failure at what I am trying to do. Something I see as both a cost and a benefit is letting go of stories and beliefs I have had about myself for years. I see this as a benefit because letting go of stories that have limited me for much of my life opens the door for me to make up new stories, and I see this as a cost because I am letting go of what I know and what is familiar and doing so is often scary.
Benefits of finishing something include the sense of accomplishment I feel, learning something new, feeling stronger, and increased self-esteem. I am realizing as I am typing this that a cost is that I have more to be accountable for when I succeed at finishing some things because then I know what I am capable of, and often so do other people.
The costs of starting something and not finishing include a lowered sense of self-esteem, feelings of failure, and staying stuck where I have been instead of moving forward. One benefit of not finishing things I have started is getting to stay in my comfort zone where things feel familiar. In some situations a benefit is getting to continue believing the stories I have told myself about not deserving better, and not standing out and having too many people watching me. In other situations, the benefit is continuing to be the go-to person for many things at work when I don’t complete projects that will give other people the tools they need to do their job without my help.
One of the stories I recognize I have been telling myself is that there is a right and a wrong way to do everything and when I don’t feel like I am doing something the right way, or I am not sure how to do it the right way, I get stuck and stop moving forward or I retreat back to what I know and what feels safe. I also tend to get stuck or move backwards when I spend too much time comparing myself to other people and where they are in their journeys.
Releasing weight is a good example of this. I have been within 10 pounds of my current weight for well over a year, and probably for almost the past 2 years. I have started and stopped releasing weight, tracking everything that goes in my mouth, exercising, and making healthy food choices numerous times, each time experiencing a certain amount of success and then moving backwards. I never realized before now that the times I have moved backwards have really been the times where I wasn’t measuring up to what I considered the “right” way to do whatever I was doing at the time. When I missed a couple of days of tracking my food intake, I quit altogether because the “right” way in my mind was to track every bite every day. When the number on the scale wasn’t going down quickly enough, or at all, I quit making mindful choices that would move me forward.
I started writing this post believing I would come to the conclusion that the reason I continually choose to give up on myself, even when I don’t consciously realize that is what I am doing, is because I don’t think I deserve better. I’m sure that is one of the stories I sometimes tell myself, but I also know I have grown a lot in that area and believe more and more that I do deserve better than the way I have treated myself for so long. I’m glad I let myself be open to the possibility that there may be other reasons I have often not finished strong.
Realizing that I am most often getting hung up on doing things the “right” way feels freeing! I feel a lightness in me right now, like I just let go of a weight I have been carrying around. I feel open to possibilities and ready to take some risks to finish some of the things I have on my plate right now, and to continue on with other things I have started. If I try doing something one way and it doesn’t work out, I can look for another way to get it done as long as I remember that the potential mechanisms for getting where I want to go are endless!
Looking back earlier in this post at some of the things I listed that I have started and not finished, I can see them with fresh eyes. Since completing the coaching certification, I started this blog as a way to share with and encourage others, I chose to work with a coach who is helping me see that I can often coach myself and that I do have something to offer other people, and I have continued to grow as a person. The number on the scale may not have gone down a lot, but it has gone down some and I have lost inches. I may not be where I want to be as far as fitness is concerned, but I can now do a variety of exercises with ease that I couldn’t even imagine doing 18 months ago, and I have gone from needing to be accountable to a trainer in order to get a workout in to being accountable enough to myself to complete workouts on my own and push myself further than ever before.
Do any of you struggle with not finishing things you have started? Have you looked at the costs and benefits of the choices you are making? I would love to hear how you push yourself to finish what you start, and also what your thoughts and feelings are when you don’t finish something you started!
I have recently done some reflecting on what makes a coach a good coach. This train of thought started a couple weeks ago when I went for my weekly training session at a local branch of a big box gym. I have been meeting with a trainer for almost a year and a half now. I started out with twice per week, later moved up to three times per week, and I’m currently with a trainer once per week. I started working with a trainer (aka coach) because I was telling myself that it was the only way I was going to do any kind of strength training. I could go to the gym on my own and get on the treadmill or the elliptical machine, but the various weight machines, free weights, kettle bells, stability balls, etc., were intimidating to say the least. I already felt self-conscious just walking into the gym and I figured if people were looking at me or laughing at me when I was doing something I was familiar with, they would do so much more if I attempted on my own to do something I was completely unfamiliar with.
Let me back up a little bit and explain a little more about this self-consciousness I experienced back then, which I have since learned is a form of pride. I didn’t want to join this gym at first because one whole wall is windows and I was worried about people watching me make a fool of myself when I was working out in any way. My sister-in-law pointed out to me that this gym is right next door to a McDonald’s and that the people walking or driving by are not paying any attention to me in the gym. She said they were likely hoping I, or anyone else in the gym, wasn’t watching them walk into McDonald’s next door or pull into the drive-thru.
So, I joined the gym and quickly realized my sister-in-law was right. Not only did people outside of the gym not pay attention to people in the gym, people INSIDE the gym didn’t pay attention to people inside the gym. Once I was inside the gym, I no longer thought about what was going on just outside the gym. I did wonder often what other people were thinking inside the gym, but this gym has a television connected to each piece of cardio equipment so I would just plug in my earbuds, find something interesting to watch, and start walking.
After a month or so, I became interested in exploring some strength training and I knew I needed to work with a trainer to stay consistent and to learn proper form. I didn’t trust myself to go on my own, and I certainly didn’t think of myself as someone worth working hard for. The first six months of working with a trainer were pretty good. I didn’t release much weight and my measurements didn’t change much, but I gained strength. I went from barely being able to do a couple of push ups on my knees to doing 10-12 on my feet. This was quite an accomplishment for someone who always claimed to have the weakest arms in the world.
Periodically, the trainer/coach would ask me to step on the scale to check my weight, check my BMI, and take measurements. In the second six month period she also added in taking pictures, which is something I am very uncomfortable with. The second time the trainer took my picture she recognized that I was uncomfortable with this and it was the first time I perceived a different attitude in her. She has not asked to take pictures since then, nor has she weighed me, taken measurements, or even mentioned doing any type of assessment. Under different circumstances, I may have felt only relief about this. Instead, I feel a mix of relief and also disappointment. I feel relief because I really don’t find it helpful to have my picture taken in front of other people because it is evidence to me of where I have not measured up to where I think I should be by this point. I felt disappointment because I think the trainer has given up on me and is just going through the motions of each training session because I have already paid for them. We make small talk a little bit and she answers questions when I ask them, but I no longer feel like she is invested in me succeeding.
Sometime last summer I had the opportunity to visit Impact Fitness in Baraboo, WI. I noticed right away that there is something different and special about this gym. Every person I have met there has welcomed me and accepted me, just as I am. The focus is primarily on who you are on the inside instead of on how you look on the outside. Yes, this is a gym with a focus on fitness, but the clear message here is that lasting changes on the outside start with lasting changes on the inside. There is no judgment and no one there is going to find your answers for you. They believe in you and know you already have your own answers, even when you can’t see that for yourself – yet. Stay connected to the people at Impact Fitness, and you will begin a journey to finding out who you really are and loving the person you find inside.
So, what makes a good coach? To me, it is someone who remembers my name, is invested in me meeting my goals and finding my own answers. It is someone who helps me learn that I have value and worth, regardless of my size. It is someone who will ask me questions to challenge me and help me dig deep when I need to, and someone who will point out and celebrate my successes right along with me. The best example of this I have found so far are the people at Impact Fitness.