Reflections Of A Failed Closer

I have a problem with closing things out.

There, I said it. I’ve always had a nagging notion in my head that while I’ve made leaps and bounds in terms of my personal productivity and effectiveness, something still just wasn’t quite right. After careful consideration (and a lot of not-so-gentle nudging from my wife, bless her patient heart), I’ve finally admitted what I’ve known all along, but didn’t want to hear.

Starting things is easy. You’re excited about the new project or achieving something. Your energy level is high, as is your interest. You want nothing more than to focus on getting this done. And as you work, it feels wonderful to make progress.

But as time goes on, the luster fades. The once intriguing effort turns into a dull, draining mountain of seemingly endless tasks. You avoid looking at the list of remaining work because every time you do, you feel like you will never get through it and finish. Whenever you try to start work, you always think “Oh how boring this will be, why don’t I just do something else.” And, of course, that is exactly what happens.

Now, in the spectrum of productivity, I consider myself to be fairly well into the realm of the good. I make lists, I update them, I do some planning around how to spend my time, and I try to be intentional about my actions. Thus, the idea that I can’t finish things naturally introduces a good bit of cognitive dissonance, which is to say, it’s not a comfortable feeling. If I see myself as a productive individual, why would I not also be someone who follows through and completes things?

If you’re noticing a preponderance of psycho-babble so far, that’s good, because what I’m trying to get at here is how important it is to understand the psychology of not following through.

Humans are not a rational animal, but a rationalizing one.

Leon Festinger

Emotions are an incredible driving force in our lives. They shape how we perceive the world around us, and how we make choices. Unfortunately they are also, at least at times, based on no part of rational thinking. And when emotion and reason collide, emotion usually wins.

It might sound a bit extreme, but I truly believe that my struggle with not closing things out might be the single most important hurdle I need to overcome in my journey towards realizing my full potential as a human being. Think about it: when your life has ended, will people remember you for all the things you started? Have you ever heard anyone say “Boy, remember Josh? He sure was an incredible starter. Think of all the unfinished novels he wrote! What an accomplished guy!”?

Perhaps it’s a mark of a cruel world, but in the end, people are largely remembered (and thereby judged) by what they finished.

That is why I want to devote some time here to exploring my problem in depth. I feel that, while there might be some tough introspection ahead, in the end it will be an important journey, and an interesting one. And, I hope, one that will be useful to others who suffer from the same weakness.

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