Wednesday, 10 July 2013

How to ensure you finish what you started no matter how much you want to quit

Struggling to finish what you started? These tips might help.

By Nila Sweeney

I’ve been known to start off big on projects, lose interest halfway and rarely get to finish what I started. Indeed, I’ve been known to peak too soon.

Things changed when I started using these two exceedingly simple yet practical strategies. Each time I’m stuck on a project or starting to lose enthusiasm, I tap into these two simple steps. They work every time. You may want to give it a try too.

Start small and recognise your small victories

I know you’ve known this all along. But admit it or not, we tend to bite more than we could chew when we embark on a project.

We want to escape the part where we’re not amazing yet so we go full on in the beginning so that we can be amazing already. The predictable outcome is the we lose interest when things don't go according to plan.

By starting small and setting ourselves smaller goals that we can measure, we’re able to see and track our progress.

Sometimes it’s not always easy to spot or recognise our victories because we’ve got in our heads that success has to be earth-shattering and anything less would not be worth celebrating.

That’s why a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs quit half-way down the road because they feel they’re not achieving their goals fast enough or as fast as the others, even though they have already made significant progress.

But success also comes from our triumph over small things that accumulate over time. It’s about getting better at the things we set out to do each time. It’s a result of taking action, a step, no matter how small, to bring us closer to our goal.

The power of starting small is even more evident in my yoga practice. When I first started taking yoga lessons, I was quite discouraged by the fact that I can’t even reach my shin when I do forward bend. I was so stiff. But my kind Iyengar teacher kept assuring me that I, too, will be able to touch the floor one day.

Although I didn’t see how that was possible in the beginning, I stuck it out, with my teacher's guidance, gently easing into my practice rather than forcing my body into submission. Each time I went to my yoga class, I set an intention to push my practice just a little bit harder and enjoyed even the smallest improvement that I made. 

It happened sooner than I expected, although by this time, touching the floor was no longer my primary motivation for practicing yoga.

When you’re struggling to get motivated to finish your project or get to your goal, it’s helpful to see the big picture and where you are at in the process. Look at your situation, your depth of knowledge, your confidence, your fitness level, your well-being and then compare this when you’ve just started, or even just a year ago. Have you become more decisive? Have you become more knowledgeable and confident? Have you become healthier and happier? These are all achievements worth celebrating.

Sure, you should always aim to fulfil your lofty goals, but the only way to sustain and motivate yourself to get to the end is by celebrating every little victory you achieve along the way.


Another fail-proof strategy to ensure success is to agree to do something that would help your cause. Most importantly, you make it in such a way that it would be near impossible for you to back down.

This works because you're essentially not giving yourself a chance to renege on your commitment because the consequences would be costly.

So how do you pre-commit? There are a few ways you can do it.

If you’re trying to quit a habit, remove the temptation that will cause you to relapse. If you’re trying to give up smoking, for example, don’t carry cigarettes. If you’re trying to lose weight, don’t buy chips.

On the other hand, if you’re trying to develop a habit, say exercising or practicing yoga regularly, pre-commit to work out that day by packing your gym gear to work. Because you’ve already gone through the trouble of packing your workout clothes, you’re likely to be motivated to use them.

Another very effective way is to pay for a class, a seminar, a personal training or coaching session that is not refundable. When you know you can’t take your money back, you’re likely to show up.

You can also get someone to ‘police’ your progress to ensure you do what you’ve pre-committed for. This can be in the form a coach or a mentor or someone you trust to keep you accountable.

To take this even further, you can set it up so that you get penalised by a certain amount each time you lapse. The amount needs to be big enough for you to feel the ‘pain’ when you pay your coach or friend. A good start would be $50 each time you miss your training session, you ate that extra piece of cake or didn’t meet your target.

The point is, if we don’t give ourselves the opportunity to back out, we’re likely to stay the course and achieve our goals.

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