Finishing

I begin each year with a theme rather than resolutions, one idea to unite my goals for the year. Previous examples: "Talk less, listen more" and "You have my permission to be bold." This year, my theme is a single word: "Finish."

I love starting projects, love the inherent novelty of exploring a new idea, the thrill of imagining all the possible ways to execute my new project. I think often of physics, and the difference between potential energy (the energy of a ball on the edge of a cliff, not yet fallen) and kinetic energy (the energy the ball releases as it falls). I live too much in the world of potential energy, in the energy of an idea not yet executed. I live in my head, rather than in action.

And then another fun project comes along, and I abandon everything for the next new shiny possibility, leaving the last idea to languish in the land of half-finished projects. I'm not even as far in the project lifecycle as Seth Godin's "shipping" concept, when one has to decide where done is. I struggle there as well, but not nearly as much as I do with idea hopping.

It comes, I think, from two places: I have an active, idea generating imagination; and I have a fear of making decisions. I become overwhelmed by imagined terrible outcomes—for an optimist, I'm skilled at visualizing awful possibilities—that I forget the incredible lightness accompanying a decision made and executed. Truly, is there any better feeling than a tough challenge tackled?

Teresa Amabile from the Harvard Business School offers powerful proof that that tracking our small wins motivates big accomplishments, so I've set up my own version of a work diary using this IFTTT recipe. When the email arrives, I hit reply, answer the questions in line, and email it to my Evernote account.

So this is my motto for the year: finish. To me, that means sticking to a project even as the potential energy begins to transform into kinetic energy, making decisions rather than thinking about decisions, and celebrating my tiny wins every single day.

Tiny wins such as finishing a blog post.