How to Finish What You Start


A lone Bison in the dead of winter, solely focused on finding food. Yellowstone National Park. By Ravi Raman.

Once you have set a goal and motivated yourself to get started, following through and finishing it is the next stumbling block. I have a friend who at one time had a list of almost 100 goals written down that he carried on a piece of paper with him in his wallet at all times. He felt they were all worthwhile and stressed about having to make progress on all of them.

Sound crazy? How many of those goals do you think he accomplished? Setting goals can be the easy part, making initial progress and then actually achieving something meaningful is far more difficult.

Another example can be found at your local gym. In January it was probably packed with people working towards their new years resolutions. Now look around, you will see far fewer people.

Finishing what you start can be a lot easier when you are really clear on why you are going after a goal to begin with. During your goal setting process, write a page (by hand ideally) about how your life will be different once the goal is achieved. Re-read this every week.

You can also perform a trick I like to do. Take your goal page, put it in an self addressed envelope and give it to a friend. Have them mail it to you in a few weeks. Write your goal page as a letter to yourself. Better yet, make a few copies and have a few friends mail it back to you at different intervals.

Doing this also makes you realize that having a ton of goals can be counter-productive and an overall distraction. The same thing applies to daily to-do lists and tactical things you need to get done. Focus on the one big thing and everything else will fall in order.

It helps to have just a few goals, but make sure they are really meaningful (which usually means they are challenging ones). It will be easier to focus and the payoff will be worth it. Instead of 100 or even 10 or 5 goals, start with just one big one!

Harvard Business Review has some other good ideas for staying committed and following through on your goals.

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