There are a plethora of reasons we trip at the finish line. The most readily identified reason is having no idea what comes next. Occasionally, it is that last detour we take before we step over the line.
We have all been exposed to the concept of Enjoy the Journey. Part of the concept is we do not know when the journey will end. This plays a part in why we trip at the finish line.
When we choose a goal, we see it as the end of the journey. Whether consciously or subconsciously, we equate life goals with the finite time boundary of our lives. For instance, when our goal is to own our own businesses, when we finally get one started, we are left wondering what we should do next.
Many of us seeing the finish line as the reinvention of ourselves.
- End of a career/Change of field
- Religious conversion
- Empty nest
When we take the time to invest in ourselves, we do not always know what comes after we reach the marker which signifies the end of the journey. Now what are we supposed to do?
Occasionally, this ending of the journey is the end to a lifestyle to which we have grown accustomed. It scares us to imagine an alien life, or, worse still, having to build one from scratch as the newly invented self.
It is hard to see the beer bong in the board room; the Gremlin in the country club parking lot or your standard escort at an awards ceremony. Can you see your boss for dinner across the electrical wire spool after you strip off the game console?
Scary, too, is the idea of success. With each success, we are tacitly, and sometimes explicitly, expected to exercise better judgment with fewer mistakes. We are held to a higher standard. Where most people already feel saddled with responsibility, the idea of purposefully creating more responsibility can be frightening.
What about getting help? For some reason, we tend to do the easy tasks first and leave the hardest ones for last. There is good logic behind this. We celebrate the small successes and use the momentum to carry us through harder tasks. With all of the little jobs out of the way, we can concentrate our (attention, energy, resources) to the big jobs.
What happens when we forget to read the instructions? Or we did read the instructions but we still have zero idea what to do next? Or we really needed to go back a few steps, but do not know how far back to go? Fear sets in.
We are afraid we are never going to finish. We are afraid to get it wrong and make silly mistakes because we are convinced we are going to do it wrong anyway. We are afraid to ask for help. Why?
History bares: The closer we get to the end of a successful project, the more people are willing to help us finish. The selfish people in our lives want to take credit. The genuine people in our lives want to see us succeed.
When we get to the stage where we probably should ask for help, it is easy to be inundated with complexity: The task seems too difficult to be worthwhile. We are standing at a crossroads. There are three paths.
2. The second path leads to a mistake. This is the part of the maze which ends in a box. While this is not the success for which we are striving, it is a learning experience: What not to do. Retracing your steps from here is easy, as it is a short path.
3. The third path is back the way we came. This is tripping at the finish line.
When faced with adversity or difficulty, a good idea is always to take a step back to assess precisely where we are in the process. However, turning around to take the step back necessarily means turning our backs on success.
Woe is me!
Some of us prefer to be a victim. Rather than merely finishing the race, we prefer to go down in flames and bemoan it as someone else’s fault. Occasionally, we get to within inches of success and intentionally sideswipe the car beside us.
We absolutely fail to take responsibility for our actions, good or bad. We trip at the finish line and blame everyone from the crew who built the track to the machinist who created the bearings in the steering.
Being a professional victim is as much work as being a success, sometimes even more. It burns up support systems, which would otherwise help in crisis times. Since everything is filled to brimming with drama and catastrophe, no one is willing to come to the rescue. No, this is not the reason we trip at the finish line. It is a consequence of tripping at the finish line as a habit.
The griping alone is enough to exhaust both the grouse and the audience. The investigation to find scapegoats exhausts time, patience, energy and resources which, had they been applied to the task at hand, could have ensured success. Finding a way to spin the entire ordeal to show no personal responsibility is a sign of the higher intellect necessary to succeed. Being a professional victim is a choice.
Doubt & Deserving
When we picture the finish line, we see accolade on the other side: Winner’s circle, the bricks, rose bouquet, laurel wreath, sheepskin, newspaper headlines. Seeing the finish line and all the goodness lying in wait on the other side can spark doubt.
- Am I good enough?
- Do I deserve to win?
- Can I make it?
First, everyone deserves to succeed at something or to some degree. Not everyone deserves a Ph.D. Most have not done the work sufficient to get such acclaim. It does not mean knowledgeable people without a Ph.D. should forego advising those in their field. There is room at the success table for everyone in some capacity.
Finishing is not an issue of deserving. You met the criteria to enter the race. You have come to the end. You deserve the recognition for finishing.
Yes, you can make it. Some of us cross the finish line in a blaze of glory. Some of us crawl across it. Some of us are pushed across it on a gurney. You can make it. If you cannot make it on your own steam, someone can help you. You are no less of a success for being smart enough to ask for help when you need it.
Be A Winner
Being a winner is choosing to be successful. The exploits which genuinely fail are the ones which teach you what not to do. They are merely the second path. There is victory in the learning.
Being successful is a habit. With each success we do learn to make better decisions. We fail less. We choose the best battles. We find better paths. We become increasingly more successful.
Cross the finish line with power. You made the journey and finished the course. The celebration is worth it.
Can you identify what trips you at the finish line? How do you banish it? How do you keep yourself from quitting? What advice can you give to those who may be standing at the finishing line, but are waiting to cross?
(c) Red Dwyer 2012
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