Finishing

Most every Sunday at the workshop, I find myself talking to the Team about finishing. The immediate challenge, of course, is for us to “finish” the workshop. This doesn’t mean just being present when it ends. That, of course, is inevitable. The idea is for us to complete our work.

I acknowledge that I am speaking to myself in saying this to the Team. There are the usual challenges. We are all physically tired; we have been putting out energy for days. And, usually, by Sunday morning, the participants are engaged and moving on their own power. So it is tempting to let down a bit, to figure that the momentum we have created will carry us to the finish line. I caution against this temptation and invite everyone to rededicate their energies to the work we have undertaken. This, in my experience, is what it takes to carry the spirit of the workshop to completion.

Of course, the workshop is only an example. This challenge of finishing is one I find myself facing often. I find it easy to start things. That is exciting and hopeful, but finishing requires work on details that do not feel intrinsically rewarding. Their importance lies mainly in how they complete the larger task. From the many who identify themselves as procrastinators, I know this is not a unique struggle. The tasks involved in “finishing” are seldom their own reward. So we procrastinators have to count on our will and intention and the support of others to persist to completion.

This will is not easy to summon, and the distractions that pull me away are formidable. A commitment to finishing the project before me easily slips away. Whether it is preparing for class, cleaning up the kitchen, writing a blog post, or even making a golf shot, I can readily find that I need to check my email, or research some idea, consider the weather, or plan a vacation rather than taking the project to completion. The incompletion of projects can feel uncomfortable, particularly as the unfinished projects pile up. And then I am inclined to make excuses, engage in denial, and ultimately judge myself a failure. Not finishing can become a habit and a way of life. It is a pattern I want to beware of.

There are many terrific tips to support a habit of completion – setting deadlines, breaking the project into manageable pieces, and getting someone to whom I can be accountable come to mind – but there is no magic I know of that enables me to avoid will and discipline as part of the process. It also supports me to recall those Sunday mornings when I am feeling the need to remind everyone of the importance of “finishing.” I was reinforced in this when I was organizing my papers recently and came across some notes David Crump had given me as part of our transition process in conducting the workshop. Written in his hand in the margin were a few quotations, one of which was this: “There must be a beginning of any great matter, but the continuing on to the end until it be thoroughly finished yields the true glory.”   Sir Francis Drake, 1587.

And, whether this blog post is a “great matter” or not, it is now finished, and I am feeling fully the satisfaction of its completion.