Lately, I feel as though I have just been sitting by on the sidelines watching as my friends and family take charge of their lives, one after the other, and graduate.
Please don’t let me be misunderstood, the accomplishments of my loved ones are huge sources of pride and inspiration for me; however, watching them push forward with their lives puts my recent struggle to take charge of my own situation into focus.
For my entire life, being a student has been a major source of identity and purpose for me. As my graduate program drew to a close and student loans payment notices began to flood my mailbox, I have really had a hard time grappling with the question “Now What?”
Since advancing to candidacy in my graduate program, I have been stuck on my culminating project, and I even started to feel stifled at my longtime employer.
Naturally, I did what people do in difficult situations: I ran!
Or, I tried to at least. I resigned from my job and signed up to teach English in Saudi Arabia, and I was ready to leave it all behind. Obviously, this is not a blog about my life in the middle east, but it is a blog about the pains of growing older.
In some ways, nothing has really changed since my failed attempt to flee the country; my culminating project is still incomplete, and my student loan debtors continue with their demands for money. There is one critical difference though; now I understand why I was “stuck in a rut” the first time around – I never dealt with the root cause for my block: fear of completion.
I believe tons of people will live their whole lives and never experience the fear of completion; however, my intuition tells me that tons of people might be grappling with this particular fear right now.
For my first blog post ever, and my first “thought” of 2016, I want to shed some light on the fear of completion and share some tips on how to overcome fear for a fearless 2016.
The Fear of Completion is a real thing y’all!
From my inquiry, I have found that the fear of completion is real and, in action, tends to look a lot like procrastination. The following are some common reasons why even the best of us experience difficulty finishing things that we start.
The Pursuit of Perfection
This may sound slightly counter-intuitive, but the pursuit of perfection might be holding you back. When you are a perfectionist, it is easy to get bogged down by the minutia of a task, lose your momentum, and never see the task through to completion. For example, imagine a student that spends hours crafting the perfect introduction to their term paper. They read and scrutinize each sentence making small changes until they can barely stand to look at their paper anymore.
By the time this student nearly faints from exhaustion, they are frustrated because they have lost several hours, and the rest of the paper still needs to be written – plus there are still typos!
The reality is that perfection is the myth. Trying to be perfect is exhausting and absolutely hinders one’s ability to produce.
An Aversion to Criticism
Similar to the pursuit of perfection, an aversion to criticism might be holding you back as well. Perfectionists obsess so much over their work because it’s embarrassing to share something you work hard on and have another point out all its flaws.
A lot of the time, completing a project is submitting your work to another for critique. Being told, “your presentation needs to be more focused,” or, “I am not sure how this paragraph relates to your thesis,” can feel like a personal assault on your confidence and challenge your sense of competence.
Again, the reality is that perfection is a myth and receiving critique is not a bad thing. Everyone can benefit from a little improvement.
Loss of Excitement
If you are gamer, you probably know the excitement of purchasing the latest platform game. Initially, you might be completely obsessed with advancing through all of the levels and completing the game.
For a number of reasons, you lose interest in the game before reaching the conclusion. Maybe the game was more challenging than you anticipated, or you acquired a new game and became engrossed in that game instead. Whatever the reason, you lose excitement and never finish the game.
Like with games, loss of excitement is a hindrance to completing projects. You might lose interest after knit-picking your project in the pursuit of perfection; you might have dragged your feet on submitting your work to a supervisor for critique, and gradually loss excitement in completing the project over time.
There are numerous reasons we lose excitement in projects; however, it is important to get excited about your project again.
Tips to Get ‘Er Done
While the fear of completion is a real and crippling thing, it doesn’t need to dictate your life. The following are two things you can do in 2016 to conquer the fear of completion.
Let It Go
In the words of Princess Elsa: Let it go!
That’s right, to finish that elusive project just let it all go and have faith that your best is good enough. If you have been stuck in a rut for a while, focus on producing anything, perfect or not, and before you know it your project will be done – and it will probably be better than you think.
The truth of the matter is most things in real-life are graded pass or fail, which means there is a 50% chance of passing if you submit something and a 100% chance of failing if you don’t submit anything. Elementary statistics suggests that it’s worth it to just complete the task
Regulate those perfectionist tendencies and embrace the imperfect human, which is pretty extraordinary already.
Monitor Your Progress
Watching your savings account grow feels so good because you can see the progress. Same concept applies to completing a task. Being able to monitor how a project is progressing is extremely motivating.
To overcome the fear of completion and complete tasks, you need to get motivated, which is why you should first assess and celebrate the progress you have made already then actively monitor your progress moving forward – consider to-do lists or posters.
If you monitor your progress, the fear of completion will gradually be replaced with excitement as you notice your project moving forward and the finish-line drawing nearer.
Enjoy this “Thought”? Remember to like and leave a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Also, please subscribe to my blog on my website and get notified of new posts.