Finish What You Start

Such a simple idea, yet it often seems like a never-ending struggle. I’m okay at quite a few things, but often lack the motivation and discipline to actually finish a project or master a skill. In fact, I can hardly think of any personal project I started that has actually come to fruition. This is an enraging and emasculating topic for me. My project execution at work is completely different than the focus I bring to my personal life. At work, I pride myself on my ability to get shit done. I’d love for this same zeal to come through at home, but it doesn’t. What is it that causes this inability to achieve long-term goals and how can it be improved?

Aim for impact, not success

If you haven’t read the book Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl, I highly recommend it. It’s a phenomenal book that details how to find meaning in the midst of suffering and then shifts to methods for finding meaning in modern society. This is a massively simplified, but the reason I bring it up is because of Frankl’s quote.

“Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run — in the long-run, I say! — success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it” — Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

According to Frankl, success and happiness require dedication to a cause greater than oneself. Focusing too heavily on success often to failure. Instead, find a project that calls to you on a deeper level than dollar signs or fame. Experiment and explore — Try new things; take a deep breath and listen to your heart. There’s always time to start anew.

Stick with it — even if it means scaling back

Even if we find this mysterious greater calling, there will still exist things that we don’t want to do nearly as much (I’m looking at you jogging). Succeeding in these types of goals is far more about strength of will and the power of discipline than it is inspiration. I find that my discipline tends to break down after I go on vacation or am temporarily too busy. Once I am once again ready, my routine falters and my habit dies.

To combat this, try to spend some time each day maintaining these habits in a lesser way. If you are trying to exercise for 30 minutes every day, try doing 15 push ups instead. If it’s something like coding for 1.5 hours outside of work, go read a few posts about the technology you’re working on. Keeping up a little bit of momentum will help tremendously when you try to keep going.

One of the beautiful things about humanity is how diverse we are in body, mind, and spirit. There is no one recipe for a human, and likewise, there is no single method to meet all of your goals, become ultra-successful, and happy. However, I hope that my advice helps with whatever it is you are struggling to accomplish in your life.

Remember, happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue. Stop and listen to what your heart wants and be the change you think this world needs.

PS — I actually finished something by writing this post. That feels pretty good.

Appendix A: Distraction Counts While Writing

I guess I’m going to include these in my writing to increase my accountability and hopefully reduce the numbers.

Here are the counts for the number of times I’ve gotten distracted while trying to write this (and I wrote this in like two hours...). I’m really not proud of these numbers, but unfortunately they’re accurate.

Reddit: ||||||||
Hacker News: ||||||
Facebook/Instagram: |||||
Shopping (West Elm/Amazon): |||||||
Phone: |||||||||||
Wife: |||