Four Reasons Why You Never Finish What You Start

This post explores four obstacles that can derail you in the pursuit of life goals:

  1. Getting sucked into the hustle culture
  2. Bumping against limiting beliefs
  3. Gripping too tightly to goals
  4. Losing sight of God’s role in your plans  

I hope you’re having a gentle start to the new year’ has been the greeting I used at the start of 2022. And I meant it. Perhaps, more so because it’s what I aimed for. To slowly ease into pursuing personal and family goals, health, education, work, and everything else in between in an unrushed way. Now, nearing mid-year, I wonder how many of you were able to do that? 

Truth is, when looking back, my start-up felt anything but gentle. It seemed more like racing down a foggy highway, ignoring the speed warnings, rushing towards a destination I couldn’t see. Screeching and scraping behind me, trying to hold on for dear life, were my fast unraveling goals.

What was I doing wrong?  What was driving this intense urgency because there’s no way I can keep up this pace all year!

I wonder how many others feel the same, and searching for an answer?  

Perhaps, like me, you’re a midlifer seeking to pivot your life towards more mindful, intentional living. More than ever, you realize that time is more precious now and you wish to spend this new chapter with deeper meaning and purpose. You have a renewed sense of your strengths, skills and limitations, spiritual gifts, and passions. After thorough reflection, you know where and how you need to create necessary changes in some of your relationships, family dynamics, or career. You understand what Parker J. Palmer means when he says:

The Life I am living is not the same as the life that wants to live in me. In those moments, I sometimes catch a glimpse of my true life, a life hidden like a river beneath the ice. And in the spirit of the poet, I wonder: What am I meant to do? Who am I meant to be?” Parker, J. Palmer (Let Your Life Speak)

In my midlife transition, I caught glimpses of that truer life, and slowly started chipping away the ice to see more clearly what lies beneath. I was excited to start the new year, armed with a fresh life purpose statement, a guiding theme word for the year, and ten goals captured in a colorful mind map. Every day I grabbed a cappucino before zipping onto highway 2022, juggling goals, health, family and work.

As the year gained momentum, I paid more attention to some goals and completely lost my grip on others.  I watched in dismay as my carefully crafted goals started slipping out of grasp.Except, in my eagerness to cultivate new growth and create the deeper life I desired, each day felt frantic and unrushed while navigating new terrain that seemed to constantly shift under my feet.  I collapsed in bed most nights feeling like a failure and an inner voice taunting me with questions. What were you thinking? What did you get yourself into? 

In my search for answers, I remembered the advice of Polly B. Berends that “everything that happens to you is your teacher. The secret is to sit at the feet of your own life and be taught by it.”

I slowed down, pulled off the highway, and took a deep breath. I needed to re-group. I paused the feverish pursuit to answer eight questions that hellped unravel the lessons my life was teaching me.

  1. Did you get sucked into the hustle culture?

Hustle Culture: It’s a lifestyle where career has become such a priority in your life or the environment that your work in those other aspects of being human – such as hobbies, family-time and self-care – often take a backseat.

GOODHOUSEKEEPING.COM

When my career pivot took longer than anticipated, guilt and shame crept in because I wasn’t getting there quickly enough. That made me push harder to prove that even as I am aging, I am still capable and valuable. I got sucked back into a familiar old game – hustling for self-worth. I piled more on my plate than I could reasonably manage.

2. Did you step into the comparison trap?

After full-time parenting for two decades, I pursued a dusty dream to study psychology, and to develop my passion for writing. Doing so, would help me shift to a career that better aligns with my passions and interests, strengths, and skills. Driving me was a need to work harder and faster to catch up with everyone else who’s been doing it for much longer and who have overcame the pitfalls I am still learning to manage.

3. Is your innate value based on external or internal factors?

As Christians we are invited to help build the Kingdom of God. We do so by uncovering, developing and using our innate strengths and abilities, spiritual gifts, passionate interests, skills and resources to serve others. We serve other in our area of influence, in the home, community, workplaces, or social groups. Without a clear understanding that your worth is not based on your service, achievements, or other external successes you can become overworked, overwhelmed and risk burnout trying to hustle for external validation, acceptance, and self-worth.

4. Did you underestimate the complexity of your goals?

There is a learning curve in any new endeavor, and often includes learning a new skill, gaining new knowledge, processing, applying, and practicing. These steps take time. How you allowed enough time to move through this learning curve without applying too much pressure on yourself and without comparing your pace and growth to anyone else?

5. Did you forget that life is a journey, not a destination?

I started this year with a feverish pursuit of new goals motivated by a deeper understanding of my strengths and spiritual and creative gifts. I was eager to combine those elements to live purposefully, particularly in midlife when time takes on a new urgency. But in the rush to see results, I forgot that the pursuit of goals that aligns with a life of deeper personal meaning and fulfillment is a slow, natural process that cannot be rushed.

6. Have you bumped up against self-limiting beliefs?

Pursuing new goals and a career that better aligns with your natural strengths, spiritual and creative gifts, and life interests can feel both exciting, uncomfortable, and overwhelming. Whenever you step into unfamiliar learning territory be aware that it’s normal to feel afraid, anxious, and uncertain. Breathe through these moments, and gently push the boundaries to expand yourself to create the meaningful life life you desire.

7. Are you gripping your goals too tight?

Professional slow coach for gentle rebels, Andy Mort, maintains that if we grip our goals too tight it’s usually because of a need for certainty and control. In his book, Get A Grip, Andy describes it as a sort of paradox or self-fulfilling prophecy because our tight grip creates weakness and an inability to hold on to the thing we value.

‘… we attach our hope to a particular outcome, only to find that things didn’t go to plan. The more tightly we tether to the hope, the more jarring the rupture when we lose control’.

8. What is the Way Forward?

As I listened to my life and uncovered the lessons I needed to learn, what is the way forward? How do you step out of the hustle culture, mitigate self-limiting beliefs, loosen the tight grip on your goals, and re-position God in the pursuit of your goals? It depends on the way you understand and cultivate your passions.

The difference between harmonious passion and obsessive passion
Research into hedonic and eudemonic wellbeing reveals that responding to one’s passions can be a double-edged sword. You can approach your goals from a place of harmonious passion that enhances motivation and subjective wellbeing. Or, you can pursue goals with an obsessive passion, a rigid and inflexible pursuit of goals.

Those who pursue passions in a harmonious way can integrate the things they enjoy most into their daily lives in a way that enhances rather than interferes with other aspects of life. They are able to engage and disengage from their passions to tend to other life areas in a flexible way. In contrast, those who pursue goals with obsessive passion spend excessive time on such activities to boost ego and derive self-esteem and identity from it. It overpowers other life aspects and can lead to negative outcomes for the individual.

Loosen your tight grip
Andy suggests a way to regain a better grip on your goals is to let go, shake out our muscles, and then pick it up again in a non-attached sort of way. A way to do this is to practice being more present in everyday moments. Also, to practice being okay with external uncertainty by cultivating inner peace. Also, a reminder that, regardless of what the future holds, you are able to cope.

Life is a journey, not a destination
Slow down and adjust to your natural pace and learning style. Hendricks (The Big Leap) reminds us that it is futile to strive to reach lofty goals if it destroys your relationships, your sense of inner self, and the connection to your inner wellspring of creativity. Hendricks also maintains that it requires a gentle harmony between love, building an income, and creativity.

Be gentle with yourself
Allow yourself to grow at your natural pace, not the pace dictated by a hustle culture, or comparison traps that cause self-doubt that deter your progress.

Break up bigger goals
Break up bigger goals into smaller, manageable steps that allow you to focus on less, and celebrate the smaller victories along the way. This will increase your confidence and shift you closer to fulfilling your full potential.

Let go of the need for certainty and control.
Instead of succumbing to self-doubt, insecurity, and fear, shift your focus and energy to uncovering your innate strengths, spiritual gifts, and creativity, and apply these to your deepest life interests.

Shift your thoughts and inner dialogue.
As an introvert, I am always thinking about the present and future, straining anxiously to know what lies ahead. I struggle with ambiguity which can easily lead to overthinking- and planning, micromanaging, and rushing toward an outcome.

Practice self-care
A way to loosen your tight grip on your goals is to take regular time to pause, rest, exercise, meditate and spend time with family and friends as ways to refuel. Doing so can help cultivate a healthy, unrushed work-life balance.

Rember God’s role in the pursuit of your goals
Philippians 4:13 (AMP) states: I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose- I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace].

  • Check if your goals align with God’s purpose for you.

Take another look at the goals to check if they align with what God has called you to do. If you’re still unsure about what a purposeful life means for you, take note of your natural talents or unique abilities, persistent passions and life interests. They offer valuable clues to uncover your God-given purpose. Then, develop and refine your gifts and resources through ongoing training and practice. If you’d like more support in this area, see the resources library for a detailed guide I developed, titled Unveil Your Truest Self.

You don’t have to pursue your goals in your own strength alone, but instead, daily allow God’s strength and power to supplement your limitations. Particularly, because of the work you feel called to, God has prepared in advance for you to do because, in Him, you live and move and have your being. Spend time basking in the presence of the Lord, through daily devotionals, bible study, meditation, and prayer to infuse your inner landscape with wisdom, God-given strength, confidence, and peace. For external support, seek out a trustworthy friend who is able to celebrate and support your growth in an unbiased and selfless way. Or, seek support from professional individuals or like-minded group who can encourage and motivate you on your journey to fulfill your unique potential.

Conclusion

An authentic life, Andy Mort maintains, starts from within, and any sense of purpose is like a seed that slowly grows from the inside out. Becoming everything that you desire and were destined to do in this world, is not a race to the finish line. Andy emphasizes that deep and meaningful becoming requires patience, curiosity, and even room for failure.  

As much as I gained new insights during the transition to midlife, there is still much left to learn and integrate. Such learning can happen through education and training as well as natural life experiences, relationships, conversations, and challenges.

Life is a slow, winding journey that cannot be rushed, but rather an adventure to savor. Not with feverish urgency, but with patience and a curious exploration to embrace and gently examine and process everything that will naturally unfold along the way.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead”

-Philippians 3:12-13

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