Monday, June 18, 2012

Five Reasons We Do Not Finish

I ran a marathon with blisters on my feet bursting open at mile eighteen. My socks were soaked and bloodied, but I finished. Months of training, pride, and a few loving hollers carried me through. The espresso-flavored fuel gels probably helped, too.

Unfortunately, other ares of my life are haunted by unfinished business. I am not alone. Most of us could use a good work day to tie up some loose ends. However, before any of us becomes a finisher, it is helpful to expose reasons we do not finish.

  1. Laziness: Some people barely start something, let alone finish it. Although the laundry does not require constant attention, it does consume the better part of a day when you consider sorting, washing, drying, folding, and restocking closet shelves. The very thought of dedicating several bursts of energy to this household chore makes me glad I have a few pairs of clean underwear in my drawer.
  2. Busyness: So much of our time goes to the road, commuting from one obligation to the next, we hardly have time for a pet project. In our age, we wear busyness as a badge of honor. It goes nicely with the bags under our eyes. And by the end of the day or week, we tend to be too tired to do much more than update our status, continue our game, or watch the next show queued on our Netflix account.
  3. Distraction: Stephen King argues for a desk in the corner of a quiet room when writing. Annie Dillard opts for a cabin in the woods. In contrast, the typical venue for creation and connection is the bustling coffee shop. Espresso machines steam, friends chatter, keyboards click, and Wi-Fi streams digital distractions right before our eyes. Simply put: one cannot finish when distractions abound. As much as we laud our ability to multitask, finishing requires focus.
  4. Suffering: Once I put weeks of preparation into a speaking opportunity at a national youth conference. I carefully pitched the topic, creatively packaged my material, and prayed hard for the outcome. Five people attended; the remaining two thousand people went elsewhere. The rejection, albeit impersonal, hurt. Most of our efforts face some form of pain, both emotional and physical. Whether we are trying to reconcile a relationship, sell insurance, or complete a bike ride, success depends on our ability to endure some measure of suffering.
  5. Fear: I've heard many musicians talk about unfinished songs. They have a chorus or refrain or bridge, but they cannot tie it together. And they will not force it, for they fear they will ruin a good tune. In other words, they are afraid of failure. This fear, of course, is not unique to musicians. The world is filled with incomplete canvases and unresolved plots. A promising start is more satisfying than a weak ending. No one likes a critical review or rejection note.
Which of these reasons is holding you back from finishing?

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