Ignore the Fear—and Press on to the Finish Line.

Feet going down stairsStop me if you’ve heard this before:

My psychology is very weird.

Or maybe not. Maybe you’ve had this experience too: You’re chugging along, making real progress on a project, and then you think, ‘But what will I do with myself when this is finished?’ I used to say this about our various landscaping endeavors at our house in Virginia. What would we do on Saturdays when we got all of that stuff done?

My husband would laugh at me when I’d share my fears about this lack of employment. “That’ll never happen,” he’d say. He was right, but even if he hadn’t been, I think we’d have been able to come up with something to do on Saturdays other than killing ourselves in the yard. As it was, when we moved out of that house after 15 years there were still lots of things we could have done to improve it.

Now I’m on a quest to finish up the improvements on my website, and I feel that same little tug sometimes: “What will you do when you finish that?” As if! There’s a list a mile long of things to do after that. Part of the problem, I think, is that very fact: once I get this relatively easy (but still time-consuming) task out of the way I’ll have to get going on some much tougher stuff. That’s okay, though. Just push through and get on to the next thing.

I was reminded, as I so often am, of a Gretchen Rubin principle, this one from her 12 Personal Commandments: “Spend out.” As she says, this one is perhaps a bit enigmatic, and she explains it in a number of places. Perhaps a better way of putting it would be: “Use things up.” Don’t save it for later; later may never come. Go ahead and use that restaurant gift card that someone gave you. Go ahead and use that perfume, those nice sheets, that stationery. We’ve all heard stories of the drawer full of beautiful tablecloths and napkins, never used, left behind by a woman who received them as a wedding present but always thought they should be used for a special occasion—which never came. Now they’ll be given to Goodwill because no one wants to iron them!

So I try to tell myself, Finish the job! There will never be an end to things to do. Creative people (of which I’m one, I guess, albeit a rank amateur) need to go ahead and use their ideas, a process that generates more of them. If you “save” your good stuff it’ll decay there in the back of your mind, just like that gift card moldering away in the back of the drawer.

How about you? Do you ever hold yourself back from finishing a project out of fear about what comes next?

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