Updated: May 7, 2022
I used to have a belief that I didn't finish things that I start. "I'm a great starter . . ." I'd say. ". . . but no good at finishing." I'd look for evidence of that belief to make it more true.
Above is a picture of a needlepoint project I started when I was a little girl. I have toted it around from home to home as a physical artifact of who I am, "A non-finisher." Every time I would look at it, I would feel anger, embarrassment and shame. Every time someone else would observe and remark on my lack of follow-through, I would feel the shame.
In an attempt to resolve my feelings (instead of feeling them) I would ask, "Why do I do that?"
My answer: "I guess that's just who I am."
I kept up the non-finisher behavior most of my life. I started a 12-month, self-paced holistic nutrition certification program and didn't finish it until . . . 5 YEARS LATER.
Every time I thought about the work I had yet to finish, I would feel shame and avoid it even more.
When I accepted this answer, I didn't give myself a chance to grow into a better version of myself. The result: my past became my present, became my future . . .
. . . Until I got coached. I acquired the skills to explore my feelings; and to question my thoughts I treated as reporting the news . . . the thoughts that were creating every result I got. Why is it so important to learn how to do this?
The truth is this: Every moment is another chance to decide and create who we are. Every. Single. Moment.
Let's investigate that thought further. Because a thought isn't just a thought. It creates.
It creates a feeling in the thinker . . . that inspires an action . . . that creates a result.
"That's just who I am," as an explanation for a failure feels like there is no other option. It feels like being trapped . . . helpless to do choose anything else. The payoff of this explanation . . . we get to stop thinking, stop doing the work of problem solving.
People don't like feeling trapped. People want to feel free. It's our nature. . . our inheritance. People also don't like doing hard things that take a lot of energy. If we are more accustomed to the discomfort of feeling trapped than the discomfort of persevering when our energy is waning, we'll settle on the former.
What do people do when they feel trapped? Sometimes they accept the cage and believe there's no way to get out (what I did when I accepted that thought as truth) while they try to ignore their feelings . . . a behavior known as learned helplessness.
Others, in a frantic quest for freedom, act aggressively to declare their freedom and hurt themselves and others in the process . . . often times find themselves feeling even more trapped as a result.
What if people just let themselves feel trapped? Really let themselves feel the feeling without any need to change it or resolve it until the feeling loses its power and fizzles out?
Then ask themselves, "where did that feeling came from?"
"Oh yeah . . . I thought, "That's just how I am."
"Is that true? . . . Is it possible for me to be different?"
"Who would I be if it isn't true that I always act this way?"
"Can I find evidence that I do follow through? . . . Yes I can."
I already believed in the human capacity to change a pattern. But was that possible for me?
When I leaned into curiosity instead of reporting the news, the new possibility for me came in the form of a question, "Could I be a person that consistently finishes what I start? Could I be a finisher?"
"How might it feel to finish what I start? . . . It would feel really good."
"How did it feel when I finished things in the past? . . . really good."
"What if I practice saying and believing, 'I'm a finisher.' . . . I'm becoming a person who finishes what I start . . . It's done'?"
That thought feels good. It doesn't feel limited. I don't feel trapped. I feel powerful, expansive . . . in control.
I practiced that thought over and over. I put it on my vision board. I put it next to my bathroom mirror.
When the old practiced thought came up (as it does while the belief exchange is in process), I practiced feeling my feelings; practiced extending myself compassion and grace for having not finished some things in the past. And then practiced the new, 'better-feeling' thought.
The more I practiced believing the new thought, the more powerful I felt; more in-control. The more I felt in-control, the more I acted in congruence with the feeling; the more I became a finisher. I finished all of my remaining certification coursework in 2 months; bringing confidence, not shame to the task. I got certified. No more cloud of shame in the back of my mind. I now consistently plan my business and I work my plan. When the old thought comes up, I feel the feelings and I coach my thoughts. I keep my promises to myself. I have become a finisher.
My 7-year-old daughter is finishing the needlepoint piece and is doing a beautiful job. Here's a new possibility: instead of an artifact of failure that chains me to the past, could this project be a collaboration between little girl me and my little girl? The beautiful part: I get to decide what it is. I decide.
Are you ready to decide who you are becoming? Are you ready to believe it? I'll let you borrow my belief until you can believe in a new possibility for yourself.