«Don’t start what you can’t finish», «Don’t quit until you finish what you started»… You’ve probably heard this kind of sentence many times. Of course, persistence is a positive trait. And of course, setting a goal, then completely achieving it, is a good habit to get into, especially when your life is at a standstill and you want to free yourself from procrastination in order to make a fresh start.
But be careful not to become too persistent. Your unwillingness to do «the right thing» doesn’t automatically mean that you’re weak and that you will never be able to change. Maybe the goal that you planned to reach is not the «right thing» to do.
A case study
My good friend Sidonie asked me yesterday : « Should we always finish what we started ? » She is a senior official in the French Civil Service, an « Inspector General », charged with missions to inspect Social Security services and provide government officials with advice regarding them.
Now, this is quite a job ! Also a frustrating one at times, when the « advice » she’s paid to provide ends sleeping in somebody’s drawer. Besides, the reports she has to write don’t allow her to use her imagination or express her feelings, to say the least.
That is why Sidonie decided to write books in her spare time. A few years ago she published an unhappy-ending romance novel, after a painful break-up. Then she published an essay on the misuse of statistics by Civil Service officials, after some stormy debates with her boss on the matter.
Now, she wants to write a book about the shortcomings of psychiatry in mental illnesses treatment (after a particularly difficult inspection in hospitals for the mentally ill). Writing a book is a great achievement. But why are the topics of her books so different with one another ? Why does she ask herself (and me) if she should finish the book she just started writing ?
What is her true goal ? Writing about psychiatry ? Writing a book, any book, because she needs to prove to herself and to family, friends and coworkers that she can do better than write reports ? Or is it the need to let off steam after a particularly difficult period of her life ? And in that case, is writing a book the best way to let off steam ? What do you think ?
3 questions you need to ask yourself
Whenever you feel unable or unwilling to take the necessary actions to achieve a goal, ask yourself :
1. Is your goal consistent with your values ? Or is it « the right thing to do », according to the standards of the society you live in, according to your family or your friends’ expectations ? Or maybe you want to surpass a « rival » by doing something he doesn’t expect you to do ? Maybe you’ve been told you « must » do this before getting old ?
Remember that, even if we adopted most of our values unconsciously, they influence each and every one of our decisions and reactions. If your reaction is uneasiness, check your goal against your values. If you don’t see any core value in the goal, you definitely need to rethink it.
2.What are your feelings when you think about your goal ? I’m not talking about what you expect to feel after you’ve accomplished your goal, but about what you actually feel when you try to complete it. Do you feel :
- A sense of meaning ?
- Renewed drive and motivation ?
- Excitement about the future ?
- A sense of inadequacy?
- Unwillingness and anxiety ?
- Lack of inspiration ?
3. Will your accomplished goal change your life ? Go to Should You Always Achieve Your Goal - Part II and discover a quick and simple method showing you how to find the answer and what to make of it.
Share your experience with us :
- Did you ever rescale or skip a goal because it was not in alignment with your values ?
- What do you feel when you leave your « comfort zone » in order to complete a goal ?
- Do you focus more on the ride or on the destination ?