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How to Finish What You Started

I study the effectiveness of self-awareness and mindfulness in successfully pursuing our goals. This article is meant to help you know how.

You can achieve your dreams by focusing on what you want to accomplish and implementing it gradually and systematically.

You can achieve your dreams by focusing on what you want to accomplish and implementing it gradually and systematically.

How to Begin Achieving Your Goals

You need to begin with explicit knowledge of what you want to achieve. If you don't know where you're going, you will end up wasting time with misplaced effort.

If you are making important decisions, you may feel doubts at times. I know I have. Those uncertainties make us hesitate to pursue goals we had made for ourselves.

I've had occasions in my life when I reached a crossroad where I could make a decision based on alternate paths. Sometimes these crossroads may bring us on a better course than we had before.

It helps to be aware when new paths and new options come along that we did not initially think of, and that could offer a better choice and a more promising future.

You can achieve many great triumphs by focusing on what's needed, and phasing it in gradually but systematically.

Be Aware of Your Prior Accomplishments

We all tend to let things go without taking action. Usually, it’s because we’re busy with life. But those undone tasks could have been significant game-changers.

Now you're upset because you knew you intended to achieve a particular goal but never got there. You need to know what’s important to you, otherwise you might reach burnout before getting anywhere.

Believe in Yourself

The first step is to have the confidence that you can do it.

It would be best if you believe in yourself and know that you can succeed.

The way that works well for me is to think about something significant that you accomplished in the past. Try to remember how much effort it took of you at the time and how you worked your way through it anyway.

When we were very young, everything took more effort. We all had those experiences. Recalling those times in your mind will help reinforce your strength to accomplish even more significant tasks later in life.

Build Self-Confidence

So let's try this exercise. Try to remember an experience when you were young and got something accomplished despite the anxiety you had about it. How did that work out for you?

  • Did you get started without thinking about it? Overthinking makes us procrastinate. Sometimes it’s best to start doing things without further judgment.
  • Did you plot a clear path to your goal in your mind and follow it? That usually helps us stay focused until we reach the end.

Give yourself credit for your prior accomplishments. When you recall situations that prove you can manage something new, you will have the confidence to do it again.

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How to Stay Motivated

Understand the Cause of Procrastination

We usually have many things we want to accomplish, but that could become overwhelming. We need to determine what's essential and eliminate the rest. Then we'll find it easier to get motivated with the crucial tasks.

Drs. Sreenivasan and Weinberger, both Ph.Ds, explained in an article in Psychology Today1 that procrastination could be viewed in two ways:

  1. I learned from them that when I'm procrastinating, it's usually because that specific goal is not significant enough in my mind.
  2. I'm wasting energy keeping it on my list of things to do. That wasted energy could be better applied to a goal I truly intend to accomplish.

I find that when I put my attention to something, I can make it happen—but only after I've determined that it's important to me.

Always Be Adaptable

Unexpected twists and turns do turn up in life, so it’s crucial to be willing to make changes as they occur. When you do that, you’ll avoid feeling overwhelmed with trying to achieve the wrong goals.

To avoid wasting time going down the wrong path, always consider if you are doing the right thing. You may need to adjust your goals if you realize you made a poor decision and discover a better alternative.

Try to be honest with yourself and decide what's essential in your life and what you actually want to achieve. Some things are just not that important. The motivation will be much more manageable.

Set Clear Goals With a Vision of the Outcome

Once you decide to do something, visualize yourself actively pursuing the steps required to accomplish your goal.

Try to see how it will turn out. That gives you the strength you need to stay focused on the conclusion.

Think of what's required to get started and the steps you need to take. Write down these steps so you'll have a guide to follow. That list will provide a visual representation, which makes it much easier to plot the required tasks.

Once you have the design of your plan, you'll have a good idea of what to expect of yourself along the way.

Avoid Stress By Progressing in Small Steps

Anticipating the end-result might cause stress because we think about all the complicated steps we need to take to conclude the task. It's unfamiliar to us because it's something new, which gives us a feeling of anxiety.

I always find it easier to get something done by taking things one small step at a time. Every step we get closer to the outcome allows us to get used to the change gradually. That is how we can get somewhere without feeling anxious or stressed.2

How to Stay Focused

I learned four crucial points from Benjamin Franklin’s book, "The Art of Virtue," related to achieving goals.3

Let’s review each of these items to help you stay focused.

  1. Let each requirement for the goal have its place.

    It’s vital to keep every step leading to your goal in the proper order. There is an appropriate place for every required step. That means you need to begin with the most straightforward steps and continue with more involved actions as you proceed.

  2. Do what's necessary.

    Don’t skip essential items that need to be resolved before going on to the next. You need to be determined to complete every necessary step.

  3. Waste no time. Avoid all unnecessary actions.

    If you find yourself doing things that are not related to achieving a specific goal, you’re wasting time. Pay attention to your actions, and stay focused. Keep asking yourself, "Is this necessary for my purpose?"

  4. Don't be disturbed by unavoidable conflicts.

    Life has a way of getting in the way. Don’t be too hard on yourself when an emergency occurs or you need to tend to someone in your family who needs help. You can always turn back to what you were doing when things calm down.

In Summary

  • Remember to identify what you want to accomplish, then stay focused on achieving that outcome.
  • Believe in yourself to get over any doubts and build your confidence by recalling how you handled challenges in the past.
  • Apply your energy where it is most important and take small steps to make it less stressful. That will help you stay motivated.
  • Embrace your desires when you know what you want to do and you will realize its reality sooner than you think.


  1. Shoba Sreenivasan, Ph.D. and Linda E. Weinberger, Ph.D. (Jun 15, 2018). "Procrastination Can Be Viewed Two Ways" - Psychology Today
  2. Susan Weinschenk Ph.D. (Oct 16, 2013). "Use Small Steps to Motivate" - Psychology Today
  3. Benjamin Franklin. (June 1, 1996). "The Art of Virtue." Compiled from his miscellaneous writings by editor George L. Rogers. Acorn Publishing

© 2012 Glenn Stok

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