Why You Fail To Complete Things And How To Overcome It

Consider this scenario — you’ve just been made aware of something new, like a new venture or project, or you have a new goal, which gets you all excited. You start off great, with lots of energy and enthusiasm only for it to decline after a few days, and within a couple of weeks, all that excitement and enthusiasm is gone.

And you do what you do regularly — you abandon the project or goal.

Has that ever happened to you? If you’re like most of us, that scenario has played out way too often for our liking. It’s time to get this handled.

Knowing why we typically don’t finish things or projects is important because every time we fail to complete something we start, it:

  • Causes us frustration and humiliation.
  • Enhances our reputation as someone who cannot be trusted to complete things.
  • Lowers our self-confidence and self-esteem.
  • Decreases our integrity especially with ourself.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Typically, we tend not to complete things or projects, or achieve goals because of a number of reasons. These include:

  1. Our beliefs whether what we have done is good enough or not, or if we deserve to achieve the thing or goal.
  2. Not wanting to set high expectations so it’s easier not to complete something.
  3. Something not being new and exciting anymore so we don’t give it as much energy as we did at the start.
  4. Not fully connecting or knowing the reason why we were doing the thing or project in the first place.
  5. Not planning or anticipating challenges and obstacles so when they do arise, it’s much easier to quit.
  6. Not putting steps in place to form new habits or make taking actions a lot easier.

The reasons mentioned above can be overcome with a little effort and awareness of how we operate. Here are six ways to overcome behaviours of not completing things so that you can restore your self-confidence, increase your self-esteem, and be trusted again as someone who gets things done.

  1. Become intrinsically motivated. When we’re intrinsically motivated, we are not relying on something outside of ourselves, that is, something externally, to motivate us to do something. The key is to become self-driven — a person who gets things done because we want to and not because there is a possible reward if we finish something. Being extrinsically motivated, that is, being reward driven, also is valuable, however the key to long-term behavioural change has to come from within.
  2. Know what your limits are. It is always easier to take on less than things initially, build some momentum, then additional things that are required. When we take on too much, we set high expectations on ourselves and are really setting us up for failure. There is merit in pushing and challenge ourselves but not to the point where we are overloaded, overwhelmed and stressed out. When we know our limits, we can make faster progress and get a lot more things completed.
  3. Avoid the perfectionism trap. This is typically relevant for artists, writers or those whose work will be viewed and critiqued by others. One strategy to avoid any possibility of criticism or negative feedback is to not complete something and continue spending time trying to make it perfect. Perfection is not an end state because anything can be improved. Rather than aiming for perfection, it is better to aim for excellence and rely on feedback to improve what are doing.
  4. Get clear why you’re doing something. Oftentimes we start something because it “feels” right or because others are also doing it. While there is merit in that, a much better longer term strategy is to know the reasons for doing something and the potential benefit completing it will bring. Unless our reasons are strong, it will be very easy to give up on it at any stage. Reasons always come before results.
  5. Track your progress if it’s a big task or project. For bigger tasks or projects, it helps if we have a plan and are able to track ourselves according to that plan. Our plan should identify things to look out for in terms of risks or challenges, and how to overcome them if they do arise. If we track our progress, it is a lot easier to identify if we’re getting off course and take the necessary steps to get back on track, for example, asking for help. It is very difficult to improve something we don’t measure or track.
  6. Form new habits so that completing things become automatic. This is perhaps the most powerful long-term strategy in becoming a person who completes things. As we do most things habitually, it is important we also form the habit of starting and completing things. One way to do so can be to work on one thing at a time and only take on something new after we have completed the current thing we are working on. This is very relevant for entrepreneurs, who typically tend to be involved in many things at once, which adds to their workload and stress.

Once we start completing things on a regular basis, our confidence will increase plus it will cause others to trust us more. Our integrity is one of the most precious things we must protect. Keeping our word and getting things done is one way we enhance our integrity. If we continue to repeat the pattern of starting and not completing things, not only will our results remain the same, it will also add to our stress levels and cause us to trust ourselves even less.

Action Step: Pick the top reason why you don’t complete things and apply at least one idea mentioned above to overcome that reason. Once it has been handled, move onto the next reason and repeat.

Question: What is one thing you will now do to ensure you consistently complete more things you start?

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  • Jane Ransom

    Sound advice, thank you!

    • Neel Raman

      Thanks for commenting Jane! 🙂