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Look–if you’re reading this, you already know whether or not you’re someone who needs to work on finishing things you start , or if you’re someone who is good at finishing things you start and actually, that’s a perfectionistic whip that you lash yourself with.
This post is for the people who feel stuck in the latter camp–the people who are good at finishing things you start.
You really, really need to hear this: Your worth as a human being isn’t defined by the things that you finish.
I won a lot of awards, when I was in school, and not just the attendance awards. I was that chick who always took on extra work. I over-enrolled in classes. I volunteered for not just one, but two causes. I didn’t have one major in college, I had two–and a minor. I’ve written books. I’ve gracefully exited jobs after giving the preferred amount of notice.
Finishing things–I’ve received a lot of external validation for that, but it’s not what has made my heart sing. It’s not what has made me truly happy. And yet, for years, I kept on starting and finishing things, mostly so that I could keep on getting that external validation when my own internal well felt drained.
If you’re good at finishing things you start , you might need to get unhooked from the trap of continuing to start things that need finishing.
If you’re good at finishing things you start , you might be like I was–really stuck in external validation.
If you’re good at finishing things you start, you might notice that you’re white-knuckling your way through, and that’s not a “win,” in life.
Yes–finishing things you start does speak to fortitude, your ability to see something through, and your capacity for handling challenges and still keeping going, anyway.
Just make sure that it’s not what you do, to avoid feeling the stuff that would arise if you allowed a big, empty space to open up in your life once you stopped all of that doing-doing-doing. Make sure that you love you, regardless of whether you start or finish anything, ever.
Make sure that you know what it feels like to leave something undone, and still be okay with yourself when you look in the mirror.
“Everyone is talking about courage, these days,” a friend said to me. “Do you ever feel weird about that? Like you’ve been talking about it, all these years, and suddenly other people are co-opting it?”
I’ve been doing the self-help thing since I was a teenager, in some form or another. A couple decades of this stuff, and here’s what I now understand: eventually, anyone who spends enough time working on themselves will reach the same conclusions.
Here’s my summation of what everyone who works on themselves enough will eventually come to understand:
Love yourself. That’s why you’re here.
Be kind to others.
Understand the nuances of when “being kind to others” means you’re not loving to yourself, and when “loving yourself” means you’ve stopped being kind to others.
Integrity is mega-important.
Taking responsibility for your stuff is king (and really, 99% of the time, it’s all “your stuff”).
All of this requires courage, and courage isn’t fearlessness–it’s willingness.
After that, it’s all refinement, discovering each lesson anew as new challenges present themselves.
To answer my friend’s question, I said that I believe in the concept of there being many wisdoms, and I trust in people finding their message about courage at the right time.
Also, I have enough humility to understand that I didn’t invent anything (so neither did whomever happens to be the current best-seller or gazillionaire self-help guru). I may have been talking about courage “all these years,” but I honor the lineage of teachers who came before me and the several hundreds of years of Buddhist philosophy that underpins my work.
Courage is for everyone. Everyone’s flavor of courage adds something to the pot. I’m not into the courage required to become a minimalist who lives out of an RV, but I respect that. I’m not into the courage required to jump out of airplanes, but I respect that. I have friends who are incredibly courageous, who align with the same values as me, and if someone decided to work with them instead of me, I don’t begrudge them that.
Confession: I used to begrudge. Oh, how scarcity would rule my life! I’d be thinking about how this person or that person didn’t work as hard at me, but they’d gotten some break that I envied, or they had more clients, or I wanted their following and subsequent attention.
All this ever did for me was whip me into self-loathing and divert attention from crafting my own personal take on courage.
Eventually, I’d come to understand that if I was really doing my work, and if I really believed in my values of helping people, then my actions would reflect that in the form of being thrilled that anyone, anywhere, does any personal growth work (whether it’s with me, or not).
I came to understand that my envy was just a reflection of my desire.
Once I anchored in my genuine gratitude that people who get stuck have the courage to reach out–to anyone, even if it wasn’t me–and get some help, and once I kept the focus on my own desires and not what anyone else was getting, I upped my happiness quotient by about a gazillion.
And, not coincidentally I think, that’s when my work really started to take off.
This concept of “who came up with it, first” is an interesting one that is being played out online, more and more. The other day I saw someone accusing another person of stealing her business model–a ludicrous statement, given that the only business model at stake was working with clients on [Topic X]. And every few months, one of my coaching friends discovers that some new life coach has copied and pasted blog posts or sales page copy, representing them as her own. Recently, I called up my attorney to draft a cease-and-desist letter for a life coach who was (is) violating one of my established trademarks.
Do I lump all of that into the “courage is for everyone; we’re all just learning from one another” category?
Let’s play it like Iyanla VanZant: “Call a thing, a thing, Boo!”
Outright copying is a violation of integrity. Period. And indirectly copying someone through mimicking them–mirroring their marketing moves, copy, and content–might not technically be “copying,” but it’s..kinda lame.
Thus–I’m not suggesting that courage is for everyone, so hey, intellectual property is a free-for-all, just love one another and kumbaya.
I’m suggesting to the online world at large that it’s important to know for yourself the difference between someone co-opting the work and someone sharing in the larger vision, in the larger collective wisdom. It’s tricky to tease out, but it can be done–and you’ll have way more peace and well-being for taking the time to know the difference.
Courage is For Everyone
When it comes to courage, I know the difference between someone sharing a conceptual vision versus violating an ethical boundary.
Because I know the difference, I can be more expansive. I can believe, unwavering, that courage is for everyone. A world where more people are talking about courage and practicing courage is a better place to live.
Courage is the underpinning of everything we do that’s great. The more, the merrier.
No one has co-opted the concept of courage, from me, any more than I have co-opted courage from anyone else.
I have been the blessed recipient of thousands of years of humanity, collectively trying to understand life and the human condition, all distilled down to this moment in my lifetime. Talking about what I’ve learned and giving it my own flavor is my passion.
We are ALL those blessed recipients. We are ALL sharing in, and further curating, a collective wisdom.
If you need to be the standout star who got there first in order to feel good, you’re losing.
When what you’re hoping to bring to your clients, to the world, becomes for all of us, that’s how we all win.
People talk about finding courage.
But really, you’re not “finding courage.” You’re practicing courage, creating it as a daily and consistent practice of walking into the fire of your fear and emerging as a braver, even more courageous self.
Important: this is not just semantics!
When you walk with the mindset that you’re finding courage , this carries the implicit assumption that spades of courage are out there, outside of you, for you to find.
This very mindset keeps people on the self-help treadmill of trying to look for something outside themselves, and it buys right into the idea of being fearless (fearless is really the new perfectionism).
By contrast, when you are practicing courage, you’re present, attentive, and embodied. You’re looking at your life and asking yourself where you want to go, next, and what integrity requires, and what your heart’s longing is, and what fear is saying NOT to do. Then, you’re stepping into the heart of that, even though the fear is still there.
Finding courage is about something outside yourself.
Practicing courage is about going within.