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Finishing Strong

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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!

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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!