I don’t know how things worked in your household, but my parents were huge proponents of finishing what you started. This was especially true when it came to food on your plate. Mom often liked to say something like, “Take all you want, but eat all you take.” She claimed it was a famous Army expression. Having never served in the military, I can neither confirm nor deny its validity. But we do have audio tape evidence of yours truly as a sweet little tyke announcing that, “I guess I don’t want any Spam®.” Without missing a beat, Dad responded in his firm, calm, loving manner, “You finish that Spam, Miss. All of it.” (I would try to describe to you what Spam is but mere words cannot do it justice. Suffice it to say it is a canned pork meat product that was quite popular in our home.)
The point is that my parents did not believe in wasting anything. I’m sure living through the Great Depression helped solidify their viewpoint. “Waste not want not” was another phrase frequently bandied about our home.
Their belief in finishing what you start extended beyond mealtime. Both my parents understood that your word was your bond. If you committed yourself to a team, activity, event, etc. you were obligated to follow through to the end. Knowing this I tried my best not to join everything all the time. I knew if I got involved in something on a whim and then later regretted it, I was stuck. I had to finish what I started. This wasn’t an absolute rule, of course. I was able to quit certain situations, but they were few and far between. I had to truly justify why I couldn’t continue. My answer couldn’t be that I simply didn’t like it or it wasn’t fun anymore.
I would like to say that with this solid upbringing I am adept at completing what I start. But I’d be lying. And you deserve better than that.
In my book I’m Not Crazy; I’m A Christian I wrote about how I have a nasty habit of self-sabotage. I actually started writing the book in 2008 but it wasn’t finished and published until 2021! To quote from Chapter 1:
…I moved back home and began a deep, intimate relationship with self-sabotage bonded in the unholy state of procrastination.
Why is it so hard to finish what we start?
I’ve given this a great deal of thought. For some of us, I think it stems from a combination of insecurity and self-sabotage. What do I mean? Well, when I start a writing project, there’s nothing but potential. There’s really only upside. I haven’t experienced any rejection yet. But once I’ve finished writing, editing, and publishing, then it’s real. It’s tangible. I’ll soon learn whether it was a hit or a miss. There will be undeniable proof one way or the other.
Sometimes we don’t want to finish what we start because we may have underestimated the enormity of the task, and we just don’t feel we can do it. Other times we’re just so overcome with emotions and stress that we feel overwhelmed and can’t go on.
Lest we forget there’s always my constant companion self-sabotage. I don’t know how many opportunities I may have missed along the way because I avoided tackling something in a timely manner. All too often my motto is: Why do something now that I can put off until tomorrow? The struggle is real.
When I was in my junior year of college my roommate would sit in awe as I crafted all kinds of papers at the last minute. Sure I’d been given the assignments days or weeks ahead of time. But my brain just didn’t fire on all cylinders until it was crunch time.
I will admit that as a writer sometimes it’s not a problem of procrastination, but rather a lack of inspiration. It’s hard to write something when you have no idea what to write. I would imagine the same is true for anyone in any creative or artistic endeavor. But that doesn’t let me off the hook for the countless times I just didn’t do it because I didn’t want to do it.
Why do we self-sabotage?
I’m not sure if it’s a conscious decision. I often think it’s a kind of bizarre defense mechanism shielding us from potential failure once again. Think about it. If I don’t submit something by its deadline, that’s why I didn’t get chosen or I didn’t get the reward or opportunity. It isn’t because I didn’t meet their qualifications or I wasn’t what they were looking for or they didn’t like or want me. I haven’t actually been rejected. I disqualified myself. I took myself out of the running. I didn’t have to process a loss. It’s this weird, safe place where we beat ourselves up a little for self-sabotaging but at the same time we feel a relief that it’s over. We don’t have to find out if we would’ve succeeded or failed. It’s this false sense of freedom, because we’re not free. We’re trapped in a cycle of starting but not finishing.
I have so many writing projects clogging up my hard drive. For me, finishing my first book was a way of breaking the cycle. One day I just started rereading all of my half and three-quarter finished plays, books, essays, etc. I said to myself, “Just finish one thing.” So I did. It wasn’t easy. I was so nervous. I still can’t believe I did it.
There is value and blessing in finishing what you start.
Don’t take my word for it. I always bring the receipts. All bible verses are the NIV version from biblegateway.com, emphasis added.
The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride. (Ecclesiastes 7:8)
Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. (2 Corinthians 8:11)
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)
I am so grateful to the Lord for giving me the courage to finally stop the self-sabotage and procrastinate cycle in my writing life. I’ve even committed to a weekly blog post. This means I have to generate new content every single week! It’s not as easy as it looks. But I refuse to slack off.
Notice I put that I’ve stopped the cycle in my writing life. I won’t lie and say that I still don’t wrestle with self-sabotage and procrastination in other areas. I do. But I’m not as inclined to give in to those tendencies as I once did. Now that I’ve proven to myself that I can finish what I start, I feel more conviction when I start back pedaling. My episodes of procrastination are shorter and spread further apart.
I believe the key is to not be so hard on yourself. If you struggle with these issues, I think it’s normal. My best advice: pick something small. If there’s something you started that you can finish relatively easily and quickly, do that first. These small wins will begin to add up. Over time you may grow in faith and confidence that you can finish a bigger project.
I’ll leave you with this thought. It’s a verse that inspires me to keep pressing on:
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7)
I believe you can finish what you start. You know how I know? You just finished reading this article.
Until next time: stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know.
Look forward to hearing from you,