You don’t need an appointment to get on the treadmill tomorrow morning. There’s a reason your gym is much emptier today than it was in January.
Finishing is much more difficult than starting. Day 1 holds more excitement than both Day 2 and Day 76.
Like many of you, I know what it means to be tired of struggling to achieve my goals. I’ve struggled to sprint through the end of the year with the same optimism and ambition I began with in January.
As I allowed myself to feel that frustration several years ago, I had an epiphany.
I had finished goals and completed years successfully in the past. I began to wonder if those experiences held the secrets I needed to finish this year and these goals with perseverance.
Using the Power of Self-Awareness to Finish Strong
Self-awareness can help all of us become consistent finishers, not simply enthusiastic starters.
Four-time best-selling author and uber-successful entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk regularly lauds self-awareness as the most important quality in leadership. Even more than “hustle,” Vaynerchuk believes self-awareness sets apart a leader’s ability to build a successful brand, team, or organization.
“Self-awareness allows people to recognize what things they do best so they can then go hard on those aspects of their life. It also helps you accept your weaknesses. What works for one person doesn’t work for everyone. I want people to learn to be at peace with themselves, to understand what they can offer, because everyone’s got something. The key, however, is learning how to find it. Self-awareness can help you do that. Self-awareness is being able to accept your weaknesses while focusing all of your attention on your strengths. The moment you decide to accept your shortcomings and bet entirely on your strengths, things will change.” Gary Vaynerchuk
All of us have heard someone tell us that common sense is not so common. Additionally, we need to realize self-awareness is a struggle for ourselves.
While self-awareness is a struggle, we can grow in this area. In fact, we must grow in this area!
How An Autopsy Changed My Life
I got tired of not finishing my goals. A few years ago, I started looking back at the goals I did complete. I did an autopsy on the areas in my life where I was consistently defeating procrastination and self-sabotage.
Here’s what I learned about myself.
As a caveat, it’s important for me to note that I am not suggesting you have the same hangups and obstacles to overcome as I did. My hope is that in seeing what I learned; you’ll be provoked to learn lessons about yourself.
I Need Public Accountability
In several areas of my life, I was not finishing because there were no consequences for my failure. When I knew other people were counting on me or other people would know I didn’t meet my goal, something shifted in my head.
For example, I’ve written on three blogs over the last 13 years. But it wasn’t until the 3rd blog I started three years ago that I was able to maintain a weekly publishing schedule. What shifted with this new site? I promised every new email subscriber a new post every Tuesday. Simply making this promise pushed me to complete a new article each week, where before I’d often go weeks without posting.
As someone with the “responsibility strength” according to StrengthsFinder, I’m motivated to show up and publish new content because the quality of my name and reputation depends on me fulfilling my promise to hundreds of people on my email list.
I Need Deadlines — Even Artificial Ones
I’m currently writing this post on the day that it is due. A family crisis ate up the time I originally allocated for this piece. And there are other items on my agenda, which need my attention today. But they will have to wait since I have a deadline to meet. Someone is waiting for these words to be sent so that they can be shared with you.
Many of us never finish our goals because we have no deadline to ensure completion. While someone set this deadline for me, there are areas of my life where there’s no one to set a deadline for me. In those areas, I set an artificial deadline. I tell another person (whether it’s my wife, a friend or a teammate) what I’m doing and when I’ll complete it.
I Renegotiated My Relationship with Perfect
As a first-born child who battles perfectionism, it’s very hard for me to finish when I feel my work is less than my absolute best. Yet, my pursuit of perfection is often at odds with my desire to be done.
If you’re in a creative field, you know this feeling. The temptation is constantly present to tweak, refine, or polish your work for an indefinite period of time. How many of us aren’t finishing because what we’re working on isn’t perfect and will never be?
Best-selling author and writing coach Jeff Goins regularly reminds his readers and students of the words of Leonardo da Vinci. Da Vinci noted, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.”
This quote led to an epiphany for me. I could let a project, piece of content, or presentation go without it being perfect. According to Goins and da Vinci, it was my best option as an artist. When I chose to value work which was done and shared more than work that was perfectly refined, I found the freedom to finish.
I Learned I Was Managing the Wrong Thing
From my time in high school through graduate school and my first professional position, I could not escape training and an emphasis on time management. Everyone I met seemed to both be struggling to manage their time and convinced managing their time better would lead to breakthroughs.
A few years ago, I heard a well-respected leader in my field share why he focused on managing his energy more than managing his time. I was intrigued and leaned in to listen. He noted his energy levels varied by the day in the week and the time of day. Once he noted the pattern of his energy levels, he gave the times and days when he was at his best to his most important work, leaving what was left to the tasks and relationships which demanded less energy.
I learned that I often failed to complete my tasks and achieve my goals because I was giving my worst to these important areas of my life and leadership. When I looked back on my most successful seasons and biggest achievements, I realized I devoted myself to them wholeheartedly. I didn’t give them my leftovers.
When I began devoting an entire day to writing and creativity, my content not only improved, but I also became more present in the meetings I led and appointments where I coached others.
What Can You Learn About Yourself?
As you consider how many days are left this year, I know there are goals you want to complete and areas where you want to finish strong.
Study your successful finishes in the past and apply your lessons to the last leg of your current pursuits.
Asking the following questions will begin that autopsy and empower you with the knowledge you need for your next finish.
- What kind of structure do you need around your final leg?
- Whose help or encouragement would ensure completion?
- Where would accountability keep you persevering?
- What mindset-shift would set you free from self-sabotage?
- Where could you reallocate time, energy or other resources to empower a final push?
You can finish strong. You can complete what you started. In fact, you’ve done so before today. You can do it again. Do what you once did and you can return to where you’ve been.
We’re cheering for you!