Are You Over-thinking Reaching the Finish Line Before Starting the Race?

The Coronavirus has created uncertainty for many of my clients. What will the next 6 to 12 months bring? Today’s blog will address some ways to productively consider moving forward despite the dark side of this pandemic. Instead of focusing on completing the race (how will I ever finish), we will examine the benefits to just starting the race (how do I begin), also known as not putting the cart before the horse.

Alan Brown, in his book, Zen and the Art of Productivity talks about the concept of tossing out the worry factor. He quotes Dr. Neil Fiore who says “never worry about finishing. Just keep starting and finishing will take care of itself”.

How do the Finish Line blues play out for you? 

Perhaps you had just started a business or have owned a small business for years. You can reach out to your clients or customers and start a conversation about what they need right now. How can you help them? What will they be looking for when the Pandemic subsides or what are they looking for as things begin to open?

Maybe you had envisioned starting a new job by the end of July. Well that all went to hell in a breadbasket when the Virus reared its ugly head. How can you possibly reframe that goal given the unknowns and the knowns? What if you use this time to explore job options by making calls to owners of businesses you would like to work for. Goodness knows, it could be depressing, or it could be the start of something beautiful – to take a line from Casablanca. What if you talk to the owner of a company you aspire to work for – not beyond the realm of possibility. These days, everyone seems to feel the need to talk. Your conversation could say I am starting to explore job options. My skills are X and after reading about your company, I believe I could contribute X, particularly as you try to rebuild your business. What is the worst thing that is going to happen from this conversation? Exactly. You have nothing to lose by starting the conversation.

In his Zen book, Alan Brown addresses the “worry factor” in the context of what is the cost of not getting to the finish line. If you do not complete this task/project/goal what will be the cost to you? Is it even worth starting to take on this project/goal? Clarifying your priorities is a first step to starting anything. Identifying what really needs to get done will allow you to start focusing on what you even need to do to cross the finish line.

Once you decide on “THE ONE” project to start, figure out your challenges. Remember, you are not putting emphasis on completing, only on starting. So what is your hiccup – do you need to block time to start this project and cancel out other less important tasks, or perhaps you are not confident you have the tools to move forward – maybe you need to hire a coach or a tutor or take a class. Define the stumbling block(s) and start the process of making things happen.  Furthermore, according to Brown, you need to write down what you foresee as those excuses that could delay your efforts. When you understand your distractions, you can plan an attack to keep them out of the way. Think timer alarms to keep you focused, do not disturb signs to keep others from interrupting, working when you are most focused so you stay on track, good lighting so you do not zone out, or any other comfort zone needs. When you acknowledge the enemy, you know how to enter the battle to stand your ground.

Picture the outcome, see it and own it. Keep that beautiful vision in your head whether a new job will make you feel useful; losing weight will help you feel confident; or cleaning out your basement will give you a sense of accomplishment.

Finally, it is critical to put a start date on your calendar with realistic deadlines. Start small and be realistic. Do not set yourself up for failure.

To sum up:

  1. Stop worrying about finishing.
  2. Clarify your priorities, passions, interests.
  3. Identify the stumbling blocks.
  4. Plan a good defense so you do not have an excuse to procrastinate.
  5. Put a start date on your calendar. Set deadlines you can honestly meet.
  6. Once you start, keep in mind what finishing might feel like but do not worry about the finish line until you can see around the bend.