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Why it’s so hard to finish what you start and what you can do about it

Do you have trouble finishing what you start?

Anything from cleaning out your garage to planting a garden or losing weight. What happens to us that we just struggle to get to the finish line? Is it human nature to start projects and never completely finish them?

Projects that started strong are left unfinished. Plans that once looked so promising and you started with enthusiasm, were never finished. You said you’d get back to it, but you never did.

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If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone.

I started writing a novel last December.

I finished my 1st draft in March. It’s currently in its 4th draft.

I thought these final revisions would be easy. They’re nearly done. But I find myself struggling to get through these last edits.

The work is tedious, but necessary. I feel like a mechanic who’s taken an engine apart and now the parts surround me in a mess. Or like I’m in the middle of a remodel project that feels like it will never end and I’m ready for it to be done.

Sometimes the self-doubt sets in and I wonder if I’ll ever finish. I’m ready to get back to writing for the fun of it.

That’s my struggle.

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Starting vs. Finishing

When you start something new, you’re fresh and exhilarated.

But when you’ve been at it for a while, the novelty wears off. The further you go, the more tempting it may be to stop before you get to the finish line.

There are good reasons for that:

Fatigue. You get tired of working on the same thing for so long, you want to quit. It wears you down.

Boredom. You want that fresh, new beginning. You’re ready to do something else. 

Reality. When you first start you’re excited and determined, but it’s hard to maintain that level of enthusiasm to the end. You’ll have ups and downs. The inevitable “downs” will test your commitment to finish.

What’s next? When you’ve worked on a project for so long it gets in your psyche and becomes who you are. (Being a student, for example.) What will you do when you finish? You enjoy the afterglow of your accomplishment, but then it’s time to do something else.

So if those are some of the reasons it’s hard to finish, what can you do about it?

Strategies to help you push through.

Accept that it takes time. Work as much as you can when you can and take it one day at a time. There’s no rushing through it.

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Complete a task toward your goal every day. Even if it’s something small. Plan your work then work your plan. 

Set realistic deadlines. Putting unrealistic stringent deadlines on yourself can lead to frustration and discouragement. Look at your plan, calculate the end date, then mark your calendar and adjust as needed.

Take the good with the bad. It helps if you like the work. But there are some tasks that are tedious and more challenging than others. Decide if it’s best to pace yourself, recruit help, or just push through.

Minimize distractions. Especially when tedium and boredom set in, recognize distractions that will keep you from finishing. Set a timer for thirty minutes or an hour to help you commit to focused working time. 

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Focus on your goal. Keep reminding yourself why you started. Put up pictures of your end goal. Visualize success.

Yes, it’s hard to finish, but totally do-able.

Work through the frustration and that longing to do something else. Stay focused on your goals so you can accomplish what you set out to do.

I’m right there with you.

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What can you do when current events make you feel awful?

Tragic events happen every day and sometimes their effects seep into our collective consciousness. That’s what the events in Charlottesville, VA on August 12th have done. It’s raised issues beyond a man slamming his car into a group of people. It’s more complicated, deeper, and courtesy of wikicommons published on

Trying to make sense of a horrible situation

I admit I didn’t understand how the planned removal of a statue incited the outbreak of violence. I had a lot of questions.

Not just about the rally, but the white-supremacist ideology, the protesters, our First Amendment rights, and the Confederate statues – what they represent and what local governments should do about them.

After talking about these things with my husband over a quiet lunch, I felt heavy-hearted and discouraged. I wondered, What can regular people hundreds of miles away do to improve this situation? 

We may not make a direct impact, but we can do small things to keep us from sinking into negativity and hopelessness.

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As my husband and I discussed these issues, I wondered about white nationalists. What’s their platform? Who are they? What do they want? I found some answers at “Who are white nationalists and what do they want?” Asking questions and getting your questions answered helps you understand the issues. 

Look at the big picture.

It’s easy to let the initial shock and frenzy of the moment linger, especially if you can’t pull away from the news coverage. When I read the answers to some of my questions I thought, How could people believe this stuff? I don’t know, but they do. And that’s out of my area of influence. All I can do is be a force for something positive in whatever ways I can.

Sharpen your critical thinking skills. 

Ask questions about what you see and hear. Dig deeper. Don’t rely on sound bytes and headlines for the whole story. If you watch or read the news, find different sources. Just because it’s on the web doesn’t mean it’s true. And certainly, just because you see it on social media doesn’t mean it’s true. 

Decide where you stand.

Peter Marshall, a Scottish clergyman once said, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” When you have a clear sense of your own values and beliefs, you’re better able to stand up for what you believe.

It takes courage to speak out for what you believe. Check out this inteview of a 24-year old pastor who’s name is at the heart of the current controversy taking a stand: Robert E. Lee’s Descendant On Confederate Statues

Align your actions with your beliefs.

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There’s so much out of our control. What difference can one person make? We can only control ourselves and we can choose to act out of love and compassion.

In a Time magazine commentary, John Grisham: ‘Silence Is Not An Option’ published August 17, John Grisham describes Charlottesville as a quiet and peaceful place that was the center of the firestorm. White nationalists came from all over the country because of the scheduled removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. Grisham says Charlottesville was violated. He asks, “Who were these people? And why our town?…Charlottesville has proved that in the face of intimidation and hate, silence is not an option.” 

Don’t give up hope.

When you look for the good in people, you’ll find it. But those stories don’t normally make the news. When current events make you feel awful, look for something good, something that you’re thankful for. 

"Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness." 

~Desmond Tutu


Get away from the media overload. Find a balance between staying informed and constantly checking the latest headlines. Put away the devices. Change the channel. Connect with friends and loved ones instead. Focus on the people right in front of you.

When the news and current events leave you feeling discouraged, try these small things to help you stay positive so you can continue to take care of yourself and do what you can to positively impact the people in your circle of influence.

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5 Ways to stay motivated to finish what you start

It’s hard to get to the finish line sometimes. You get super-charged about doing something big, like starting a business, going back to school, losing weight, or getting out of debt.

Then the novelty wears off. Your motivation wanes and you wonder if you can finish what you set out to do. You’re not alone. It happens to everyone. 

If you’ve managed to get started, but can’t seem to finish,

Here are 5 ways to help you stay motivated and finish what you started:

1. Do something.

It’s great to have a plan of action, but when you plan and plan for days or years, and never do anything, you may have a case of “analysis paralysis”. Stop thinking, analyzing, and projecting. Start doing. Even small actions every day will help you keep momentum to get you closer to your goals. Remember the law of physics. A body in motion tends to stay in motion. So don’t stop moving forward. When you have a project in progress, doing something every day will help you stay committed to the end.

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2. Give yourself a deadline.

“Some day” never comes. Most people are “deadline motivated”. Look where you want to go. You set your course according to your focus. For more information about this idea, see Where you look is where you’ll go.

3. Be okay with imperfection.

You have to start somewhere. If you expect perfection out of the gate, you’ll be disappointed and not even want to play anymore. Remember that everyone was a beginner at one time. Be patient with yourself. Don’t make your expectation of perfection an excuse to never get started. Read previous post about being okay with being a beginner: You have to start somewhere 

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4. Schedule your work.

If it helps to write out your daily plans, get a calendar and write them. Set it on your phone and remind yourself that you have an appointment to do whatever, like meditate, journal, read, etc.

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5. Stay focused by minimizing distractions.

Don’t allow things to keep you from what you want to do. Potential distractions are everywhere, technology and otherwise. I didn’t realize smartphone addiction is a thing until I read Time Magazine’s article about smartphone addiction and how to get past it: Here’s How to Battle Your Smartphone Addiction. What an eye-opener.

Stay motivated by keeping your goal in mind and make it a point to:

  • do something every day
  • set deadlines
  • be okay with imperfection
  • schedule your work
  • stay focused by minimizing distractions

Remember why you started and be ready to keep yourself going with a daily dose of motivation.

Napoleon Hill says, “Desire is the starting point of all achievement, not a hope, not a wish, but a keen pulsating desire which pulsates everything.” See last week’s post Success starts with desire

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Success starts with desire

What determines whether you’ll reach your goals? Whether you’ll succeed or fail?

In his book, Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill says,

Desire is the starting point of all achievement, not a hope, not a wish, but a keen pulsating desire which transcends everything.

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In order to be successful, you need more than a hope or a wish. You need “a keen pulsating desire that transcends everything.”

Large and small goals

My friend and I were discussing how frustrating it can be to lose weight.

Here’s the short version of our conversation:

“I really want to lose 10 pounds, but it’s so hard,” I say as I take another handful of tortilla chips.

Do I really want to lose weight? Not as much as I hope or wish I would. My actions prove that I want the chips more than I want to lose 10 pounds.

How can you tell how much you want it?

It’s not what you say as much as what you do.

Let’s say, for example, I decide I want to run a half-marathon (13.1 miles), but I’ve never run further than a mile.Photo courtesy of published on

What are some things I might do if I were truly committed to my goal?

  • hire a coach
  • find a training program
  • stick to it
  • meet other runners
  • learn about long distance running

My day-to-day actions should reflect my “keen pulsating desire” to run a half-marathon.

I know. It sounds weird to say:

“I have a keen pulsating desire to run a half-marathon.”

Or “I have a keen pulsating desire to lose 10 pounds.”

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But that’s what it takes. That “keen pulsating desire” causes you to align your actions with your goals, to:

  • stay focused on your goal
  • erase excuses
  • stay positive
  • overcome obstacles
  • keep at it


When it comes to staying motivated and keeping at it when you feel like giving up:

May your will to accomplish your goals be greater than all obstacles. May your desire to achieve transcend all other things.