Why Finishing What You Started Is A Terrible Way To Live

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You may remember that a mere 2 months ago, I moved to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. It was a spur of the moment decision, a quick escape from the city, a way to get away from a situation when I wasn’t sure what else to do. I had planned on being there for 3-4 months, maybe longer.

And as I write this, I’m sitting here in my apartment in Toronto. Back home, 6 weeks later. What happened to “3-4 months, maybe longer?”

I changed my mind.

And inevitably, I got all kinds of responses to this:

“What, you’re leaving paradise?”

“Things just not working out for you there?”

“Couldn’t hack it?”

And really, none of those are true (especially the paradise one. What the hell do people think I do, sit on the beach all day sipping icy rum drinks and updating Facebook from my phone? I went to the beach once. I lived on the outskirts of the city, where I stayed indoors for 9 hours a day working my as off. The assumptions people make about my life are wild. Yeah, it’s pretty sweet, but c’mon people – I still work!). Anyway, I decided, for a variety of reasons, that I didn’t want to be there. I wanted to be in Toronto. So 6 weeks later, I bought a return ticket and came home. No fear about what people would think. No worries about sticking to my commitment. No “sticking it out” just for the sake of it.

 

Here’s my whole thing about finishing what you start:

I think it’s total bullshit.

 

We almost always start things without having the full picture. Often we start things and our circumstances change. Sometimes we start things and we just plain don’t like them. There are probably a thousand reasons why you might change your mind. But so many people are stuck in the “finish what I started” mindset that they trap themselves in situations that suck.

 

The problem with the “finish what you started/stick it out” mentality is that it doesn’t account for the fact that we never have any idea how something is going to turn out.

 

This is how life works. We do something, and we’re never really sure of where it will lead us. So to start something and be wholeheatedly committed to seeing it through doesn’t make any sense, when you think about it.

You have to give yourself permission to change your mind.

Here’s a little analogy that just came to mind: Let’s say you’re a little afraid of heights, but you decide you’re going to walk across one of those old wooden suspension bridge thingies. You say to yourself “I’m going to finally do this!” and you start walking. And when you’re about halfway across,  you notice that the other end of the bridge is on fire. It’s burning, and in a few minutes, it will burn  right through and the whole bridge will come crashing down. You look back, and realize you still have time to turn around and walk back to where you started. No harm done. So then, do you say to yourself “The bridge may be burning, but goddammit, I committed to walking this bridge, and I’m going to do it! Even if it means I have to die for it!”

No. Of course not. That would be ridiculous. You didn’t know when you committed that the bridge would start to burn. You didn’t know that it would be a life or death decision. You just decided it was something that would feel good to do, so you went for it. But it didn’t really work out the way you thought, and halfway through, the logical thing to do would be to re-assess the situation, determine whether it was working for you (which, in the bridge case, it most definitely wasn’t), and reevaluate what you should do from there.

But this isn’t how we generally operate, is it? We tend to want to see things through, because we were taught at a young age that quitters never win.

We stay in academic programs we loathe and jobs that suck. We pour all our effort into business projects that just aren’t working, instead of reevaluating what’s not working and tweaking as we go. We make big life decisions that we defend to the death, for fear of being judged, looking like a quitter, or a failure, or like we “can’t hack it”.

 

We put all this stock into making the “right” decision, for fear that once we decide, that’s it. It’s final. And that it just totally ridiculous!

 

Not only is it ridiculous, but it’s also so, so backwards. We don’t know how something is going to work out til we try it, so to put so much weight into a decision that we haven’t even really tested out yet is just insane. What’s even more amusing is that we let the fear of making the wrong decision paralyze us and stop us from making any decision at all – which is a surefire way to get us nowhere. Duh.

So we hum and haw and stress, and we finally make THE DECISION, then we shame ourselves for changing our minds when it doesn’t work out for us.

Are you seeing how illogical this is?!

 

So the entire reason for this post is to help you take the shame out of changing your mind. To give you permission to go back on your decisions when they aren’t working out.

 

Not that you need my permission, but sometimes it’s nice to have someone tell you that what you’re feeling is totally normal, right?

There is no shame in changing your mind. If someone wants to judge you for it, that’s their own shit. And it’s usually a sign that they are stuck in something they don’t want to be in, and they’re too afraid to change their mind. Don’t let someone else’s baggage bring you down.

Take a stand for yourself, change your mind, and who knows… maybe you’ll inspire someone else to do the same.

 

What situation are you stuck in that you reaaallly want to bail on, but you’re sticking out for fear of being judged if you change your mind? Comment down there with your story.

 

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Read 17 Comments & Leave Yours

  1. simplelifeclub

    I did wonder…
    I’m totally with you though on this. I have started lots of things in the past…and once I got right in and involved realised I hated it and had to get out. When I say realised I mean every tiny cell of my instinct ached with “this is wrong”. If I had stayed I’m sure it would have made me sick.
    Good for you. Hope you are enjoying being back in Toronto?
    xC

  2. ketaggart

    Hahaaaaaaaaaaa!  I am someone who rarely EVER quits anything I start and I’ve always thought that was a good character trait.  But I am also someone who has a very difficult time deciding what to do with my life, what my passion is, what business I want to start.  DUH!!! I never connected the two until you just pointed it out!  
    Interestingly enough, my sister is the opposite.  She tends to not stick with most things she starts and then beats herself up so much about it that she doesn’t like to go anywhere where people will ask what she’s up to now.  And she now is stuck not starting anything new at all.  Both extremes seem to paralyze us.  And in the end, since we only get one life and it is SOOO short…who cares what anyone else may think??
    Excellent smack upside the head.  Thanks! :)

  3. shannonw505

    I love this post…thanks for sharing!  I used to think it was such a good trait that I didn’t quit things, but I started connecting with myself more and realizing that it was really about keeping outward appearances more than doing what I actually wanted (go figure). So, I started changing that and quitting things and it really has made so much difference in my life. Like you said, once I gave myself permission to do that, I also gave myself permission to try new things without expectations of how the outcome should be…now THAT has really been awesome and contributed to my life now. Discovered your site a few weeks ago and loving it! Big virtual hug to you!! :)  Shannon

  4. jenner807

    What a nice article!! I tell people all the time, especially when goal setting: if you write 10 goals, expect to accomplish 5 of them (MAYBE 6) because your intentions shift & change. Great reminder–thanks!

  5. jenner807 Goal setting is such a perfect example of this. Thanks !

  6. shannonw505 Sch a great realization – “it was more about keeping outward appearances”. I love that it led you to trying more new things without expectation. So awesome.

  7. ketaggart You’re so right, there is definitely a downside to both extremes. It seems being really honest with yourself + not worrying about what anyone else thinks is the perfect combo!

  8. jennycatsmom

    Just because you bought a ticket to the play, doesn’t mean you have to stay for the second act.

  9. ohmyraw1

    Hi Becca! I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this post! How true…We put so much stock (sometimes) into what other people think and into appearances when it is harder to really check in with ourseves and ask what’s working. What a truly liberating post! Love this website! Also, I’m based in Ottawa, so you’re not too far away :-)

  10. simplelifeclub Thanks Claire!

  11. ohmyraw1 I’m from Ottawa ;)

  12. ohmyraw1

    Rebecca Tracey ohmyraw1 Such a small world!! :-)

  13. Carmen28

    And here I was – thinking that whenever I change my mind or don’t follow through with what I originally had planned, just because it doesn’t work for me anymore, and decide to try something else instead, I start to think that there is something wrong with me. Your family (who are the first ones to judge you) are also responsible for planting that doubtful seed in your heart. They tell me I have issues cuz I just can’t commit to one thing for a long period of time. To quiet the negative voices around me I simply tell them: I am an adventurous kind of girl and the creative person in me doesn’t let me commit to one thing for long, any problem with that? But then their little voices in my head tell me:  you DO have a problem!! haha! After reading this I am now convinced that I was right all along! Love reading this refreshing post and love, love, love your your style and your attitude! Glad I found your site! ;)
    xx -Carmen

  14. KarenTaggart

    Carmen28 I’m currently reading Refuse to Choose by Barbara Sher and from what you’ve written I think you’d really love it!!!  
    And someone needs to start a “quiet those little voices in your head” service.  Other than anti-psychotic meds anyway. :)

  15. Carmen28

    KarenTaggart Carmen28
    Thanks so much, Karen! I will definitely be reading this book. Sounds like something I would benefit from. ;)

  16. creativestargirl

    Thanks for writing this, it’s really what I needed to hear right now. I’m working for a charity and the job I signed up to do really isn’t the job I’m doing and I’m completely burnt out. I keep telling myself to hang in there, there’s only 6 months left. But I keep having short term jobs so I’ve been feeling that I should just stick to it. There’s something about charity jobs that I think put even more pressure on you to feel like you’re ‘good value for money’ so no matter what you do, you think you should be trying harder.
    However, after reading this, I’m feeling a lot better, and feeling that I shouldn’t be too hard on myself, and could just go out and live the life I want to live!

    Thank you!

  17. Great post! I definitely used to have this character trait…. so much so that I was known as a pit bull thrashing a dead rag doll … (yikes)

    But now I have been in such a transitionary state for the past three years (quite a few stories in there) and I haven’t hesitated to quit and move on when something isn’t resonating with me… but after three years and numerous (mostly positive changes) I find it a little challenging to move a little bit back towards that focus and fortitude. Cuz …, we can’t just quit all the time. Sometimes we do need to keep walking on the bridge because even though it’s burning, the place we will fall to is kinda exactly where we need to be to keep moving ahead.

    Thanks for the reminder to keep both sides in proper perspective.