When I’m coaching creative people they often complain that they’re great at starting things but not at finishing them. So they can come up with lots of ideas but not neccessarily see them through. They get enthusiastic about their latest wheeze, but this quickly fades as they get bored and move on to the next thing.
In a sense this goes with the territory and is part of the process of being an ideas person – when you’re creative, you create. In some professions it can also be an asset – freelance journalists need to be constantly coming up with new ideas to pitch to editors. Performers need new material to talk about. And some types of work is never really complete anyway (blogging? painting a really big bridge?).
Some people deal with this trait by setting external deadlines and deliberately involving other people.
I once had a client who wanted to write a novel but was struggling to get it done. I encouraged her to make a lunch date with a friend for a month’s time, and to tell her friend that she was going to bring the first 3 chapters of her novel to show her. At this point she’d written about 3 paragraphs, so it was a lot to aim for. But creating this artificial deadline gave her a focus to complete the 3 chapters, and she did it. Telling her friend what she was going to do made it real enough for her to actually do it.
And to be honest, I’m also the sort of person who starts things but gets easily distracted. If I wasn’t a coach I could probably just shrug my shoulders and say ‘Well, that’s the sort of person I am’ But the trouble with being a personal development kinda person is that you don’t just keep it for work. It’s with you all the time.
So I decided to challenge my perception of myself as a person who starts but struggles to finish things, and the method I chose was that well-known personal development tool…cake.
When you make a cake, you have to pay attention to detail. If you’re vague and slapdash it won’t turn out right. You can’t just wander off half way through to check your emails or see what your friends are doing on Facebook. You can’t change course and decide that actually you’d rather make a curry instead. You can’t even switch between imperial and metric measurements. You have to make a decision and see it through. None of this comes naturally to me. Though if it all goes wrong, you can still cover it in melted chocolate and somebody will like it, which is one big advantage over other personal development tools.
It’s important to know yourself, challenge yourself, work with your strengths and improve the stuff that’s not serving you well. If you’re a non-finishing starter, take one small area of your life and demonstrate that you can follow something through to the end. You then open up the possibility that you can do it in other areas.
Key to all of this is recognising that that we are all works in progress, and none of us is 100% doomed to behave in a particular way for ever more. Challenge the assumptions you make about yourself. You can move from being someone who never finishes things, to someone who can start something and see it through. Start with a cake, and the rest will follow.
For more information about specialist media career coaching, take a look at my media coaching site here.