I start a lot of projects but I don’t finish as many as I should. And this quarter I’m going to focus on that problem and try to change it. I’m going to try to become a finisher — someone who tends to bring more stuff to a conclusion than I have in the past.
As I think about why I start so many things but fail to finish them, I realize that part of the problem is: I’m addicted to the start. I love that rush of new ideas, the “big think” required to define the ideas and wrestle them into something tangible, that burst of creativity, that frenzy of effort to get something rolling. Oh man I love that stuff.
It’s like when you open a new package of whiteboard markers and think of all the great things you are going to write on your whiteboard. (I just re-read that sentence and it sounded nerdier than I normally like to portray myself. haha).
I’m addicted to the start because it’s so creative and juicy and expansive and big picture and bursting with potential. It “opens outward” (if that makes sense).
Compare that to finishing, which doesn’t seem to be creative. It’s detail-oriented. It’s the finer details. It’s dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. It “narrows” (if that makes sense).
MY BRAIN UNDER A MICROSCOPE
I’m doing a little self-analysis here to try and figure out why I love starting things way more than finishing things. This is totally unscientific and it may or may not be similar to your experience. Here goes…
My brain and personality are wired to love the starts. And because I do so many of them, I kind of become addicted to the activities associated with starting, and I think it probably becomes cyclical (in the sense of: I like starting things so I start a lot and that makes me like it even more).
But what about finishes? Well, I do like the feeling of a job well done but apparently not enough to really push through and finish everything. It’s as if my brain rewards me with a bigger hit of dopamine for starting than for finishing. And because I don’t finish as often (and not all finishes are successful finishes), I tend to get rewarded more often for starts and therefore love them more.
That leads me to do a bit of thinking about rewards. There are many different potential rewards for starting and finishing, and some of those rewards are intrinsic and some are extrinsic. Here are the ones that seem to be most important to me. (Note: I’m making some generalizations here because not all projects will result in all potential rewards).
The rewards for starting (a lot of my projects) include…
- (Intrinsic) Opportunity to be creative
- (Intrinsic) Opportunity to dream and set new goals
- (Intrinsic) I’m good at starting. I have that skill-set and enjoy using it. Therefore, the fact that I’m starting something IS in itself a reward
- (Extrinsic) A new thing to talk about/blog about/reference with prospects
The rewards for finishing (a lot of my projects) include…
- (Intrinsic) The feeling of a job well done
- (Extrinsic) Some kind of measurable reward (i.e. financial remuneration for business-related projects or increased healthiness for health-related “projects” and goals, etc.)
- (Extrinsic) More attention or prominence in my niche
There might be other intrinsic and extrinsic rewards for starting and finishing but I think these are the big ones for me right now.
So I don’t want to stop being addicted to the starts because I love starts and fully intend to do more. But I want to “catch up” my desire to finish so that the start-to-finish ratio comes into a closer balance.
I don’t want to be passionate about the start but merely persistent during the finishes. I want to be addicted to the finishes too. I want to look forward to the finishes.
RANDOM THOUGHTS ABOUT BECOMING ADDICTED TO THE FINISH
I’m only starting to think about this now (it’s a journey for me) so here are some initial thoughts about becoming addicted to the finish…
- The rewards for finishing need to be greater than they are now. The rewards don’t have to be equal to the reward for starts (I can still enjoy starting more than finishing) but the rewards need to be enticing enough for me to want to finish.
- I do very few projects for the financial reward because I’m already comfortable with the financial rewards I have in my business. I do projects for other kinds of rewards… and that might actually be a detriment to me since I’m not necessarily good at creating a measurable reward. (In other words: I measure business projects in financial terms but I don’t value financial terms.) I could go into detail about that but I’d be opening a bunch of skeletons in my closet about how I was raised and my family’s attitude toward money. It’s complicated and I’ve already written more than I’m comfortable writing on this topic!
- One potential reward of finishing is the ability to start a new project at a higher level, leveraging the finished stuff that I’ve accomplished. That’s something worth thinking about a little more.
- Rewards are only part of the picture. I think I often drop started projects because the cost of continuing seems higher than the cost of starting something new.
- Related to above: I tend to think of projects as binary: Finished or ongoing. When really that isn’t the case. They are finished (successfully or unsuccessfully) or they fizzle. How can I get to the point where I love even an unsuccessful finish as much as a start?
- Related to above: Some projects are ongoing (like this blog and like a new brand) and that makes it easy to let it fizzle if I don’t create a series of short-term and long-term goals on the project.
- The skill-sets for starting and for finishing are very, very different. I enjoy starting and I have (in the past) struggled with the skill-set for finishing. If I learn to love finishing more than I do then the action of finishing can be a reward in itself in the same way that the act of starting is a reward in itself.
- I am a big advocate of learning to love things you hate (In business: Working hard, prospecting, selling, etc. In personal life: Working out, eating healthy, saying “I’m sorry”). I try to love those things because they make me a better person but somewhere along the way I’ve ignored finishing.
- If I’m going to push it further — to the point of becoming ADDICTED to finishing — then I need to learn to do it, learn to do it well, choose to want it, and get to the point where I want to finish so badly that I ignore new starts and my calculation of the costs.
- Maybe there’s a point when starting “hands-off the baton” to finishing. That’s my risk point where my starting addiction is no longer sated… and I want to start something new.
- I have a long way to go because the skill-set required for finishing does not sound fun to me right now: It’s very detail-oriented and narrowly focused. I’ll need to rewire my brain on this one!!!
Addiction is when you experience the physiological effects of a craving that can only be satisfied by one specific thing. I think I feel that way about starting but that’s what I want to feel about finishing too.