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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!

 

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Changing Directions

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I’m sitting here in my favorite new writing spot – a newly remodeled Starbucks. I love the atmosphere here and the feeling of warmth as my latte hits my belly. I spent the afternoon with a pit in my stomach that has been occuring more often lately than I would like. I haven’t figured out yet where this feeling is coming from and decided some time spent writing about it may help me sort it out. I was talking to my coach a couple days ago and mentioned this uncomfortable feeling. She asked if it is more of a dread feeling or more of a feeling like I’m going to puke because I know something I am about to be involved in will be really big and impactful, and also scary at the same time. At the time I said that it is more of a feeling of dread, although I didn’t know exactly why I was dreading what was coming up. On this particular day, it was a meeting with my supervisor. I told myself I was going to practice being grounded and focus on that during my meeting so I could feel more confident. The meeting didn’t turn out so well.

My boss started out asking me a couple of questions to which I did not know the answers. Her reaction was judgmental and demeaning and that set the tone for the rest of our meeting. Practicing ground and center went right out the window and all I seemed able to focus on was how I once again didn’t know enough. I wish I could stay that I was able to use positive self-talk and quickly get myself back in a good space. Instead, I cried. I am not a fan of crying in front of other people, and especially when the other person is my boss. She asked me what the tears were about and I told her I don’t feel like I will ever be able to meet her expectations because I have no idea what they are. I also told her I have no idea when she is happy with my work, angry with me, disapointed in me, or pleased with me because I only see her a total of twice per month. One hour per month I meet with her alone and her comments are often ripe with criticism and void of praise, and then I see her one other time in a leadership meeting with about 15 other people. I have reported to her for 10 months now and don’t know her any better today than I did 10 months ago. The words she spoke said she was sorry for making me cry. The tone of her voice and the look on her face said she was in her glory and loving every minute of it.

I would love to tell you that I left work and that whole situation at work and went home and enjoyed the rest of my evening. That would be a lie. I went home and told my husband all about the meeting, cried some more, and basically let it ruin a perfectly good evening. The next morning I replayed the dialogue from the meeting repeatedly in my head and cried a little more. I went to work and felt sorry for myself and hopeless about my ability to make this situation any different.

I have also handled several situations at work lately with upset customers, two who ended up complaining to administration, which is then relayed back to my boss. Today was another of those situations. I talked to an angry customer right before I left work for the day and although I believe no wrong-doing was done on my part or by any of my employees, the call ended with the customer stating she is going to call the Better Business Bureau. I hung up the phone and immediately noticed the pit in my gut. It’s like that feeling that something is about to happen.

I spent a little quiet time thinking about all of this after work today and trying to sort out what it is I am dreading so often lately and what is going on when I start feeling that pit in my stomach. I realized that each of these situations are challenging me to prove that I have grown and learned that I am enough, just as I am. So what if I can’t live up to the unknown expectations of my boss? Do her expectations even matter in the grand scheme of life? What is more important to me is living up to my own expectations. I have to live with myself everyday, not my boss. The same is true of the situations lately with challenging customers. The resolution I have offered has not been enough to meet their expectations and I have let that mean that I am not enough.

How quickly I reverted to being a victim in challenging circumstances! How easily I went right back to that miserable place of feeling unworthy of simply being me. Yet, how quickly I have been able to get to the root of this feeling of dread too! And that means I can get right back to being responsible for my own choices. I chose to interview for the job I have and to accept it when it was offered to me – even though I had heard plenty of horror stories about my boss and the way she treats others. I chose to accept the responsibility of dealing with challenging customers as part of my job duties, with no guarantee that every situation would end on a positive note. I chose to let these situations temporarily define me as not enough.

Today I choose to toss out that definition – AGAIN – and do what I know is the next right thing instead of trying to please everyone around me. I choose to measure my worth by how well I am meeting my own expectations and by remembering who I am in God’s eyes. Today I choose to be true to myself and know that doing so in my job will involve some struggles with my boss because I choose not to be like her. From my experience with her, I choose to learn how I never want to treat other people. I also choose to look at her with compassion and curiosity. I wonder what she has experienced in her life that has caused her to find power in belittling other people? I can imagine that being in her skin and portraying that image to others may leave her feeling rather lonely and I can empathize with that because I have often felt uncomfortable in my own skin and kept a wall between me and other people and the result was a deep feeling of loneliness. One big lesson I have learned from this woman already is how I never want to treat other people.

I have a choice in every challenging situation. I can choose to let it drag me down or I can choose to explore each situation for any truths I can apply and move on. I still tend to choose the first option out of lifelong habit, but I also choose to not stay there for long and that is improvement. My bounce back time is shorter and that amazes me. I sometimes think about getting to a place where I am unaffected by the negativity of others and don’t need to bounce back from the effects of negative situations. I’m not sure if that is realistic, or if that would mean I am disconnected from my emotions. I certainly don’t want that. I spent too much of my life running and hiding from my emotions and not knowing how to even identify them and I certainly don’t want to go back to living that way.

Now that I know I was moving in the wrong direction and reacting in old, familiar ways, I can do an about-face and get on with my journey in a new direction – sometimes hesitantly, sometimes with a spring in my step, and always with the knowledge that the choice is mine.