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You Don’t Always Have to Finish What You Started

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I’m the kind of person who is committed to whatever I start. If I start something, I want to finish it. Books, movies, business projects, jobs, etc. And usually finishing what you start is a great skill to have, except when it’s not. Here’s why you don’t always have to finish what you started.

You Don't Always Have to Finish What You Started

You Don’t Always Have to Finish What You Started

I remember when I got my first real job. I was pretty excited to work there, but after just a week or two I realized I was only going to be getting a few hours a week. Like often four hours a week only.

And I stuck it out and didn’t try to find a different job.

I wanted to finish what I started. But in that case, it was hurting me more than helping me. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to find anything else and I didn’t want to be ungrateful since we were in a somewhat bad economy anyway, so I just dealt with it.

Or to use a light-hearted example, sometimes I used to finish books or movies that I knew that I didn’t like. And sure, sometimes it takes a while to get into something, but by the halfway point you have a pretty good idea if you like something or not.

But I’d finish them anyway because I felt like I had to finish what I started, and by the end I’d just be like.. wow, I just wasted several hours of my life that I’ll never get back.

And that’s not a very happy way to live your life or fill your time.

You only have so much time on this earth. Don’t waste it doing things you hate or finishing projects out of a nagging obligation rather than for the joy or love of it.

Give yourself permission to let go of dreams that no longer make your heart leap or things that no longer serve you.

Don’t finish bad books or tv shows, and challenge the things you do just because “it’s what you’ve always done.”

Because I promise, there is something out there that is much better.

“If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking.” – Steve Jobs

Why I Stopped Finishing Books and Movies I Didn’t Like

The other day I was watching a movie that was a classic with a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes. But I just couldn’t get into the movie, so I didn’t finish it. Here’s why I stopped finishing books and movies I didn’t like.

The other day I was watching a movie that was a classic with a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes. But I just couldn't get into the movie, so I didn't finish it. Here's why I stopped finishing books and movies I didn't like.

Why I Stopped Finishing Books and Movies I Didn’t Like

Life is short. Too short, I’d say, to spend time reading books you don’t like and watching movies that are only sort of interesting.

And even though this movie was supposed to be good and it started out with a few great scenes, after a while it just got really boring and I started looking at the video player like, “Ahhh how much longer do I have to watch this?” Then I realized that was silly because I didn’t have to keep watching a movie I didn’t like – I was choosing to keep watching it, even though it was boring.

I first heard about this concept in middle school when a librarian told us that if we didn’t like a book, we didn’t have to finish it. At the time it totally blew my mind because I was like, “Is that even an option??” I thought somehow that once I started reading a book I was forever locked into a contract of finishing it at all costs (or something like that :)). But yes, as ridiculous as this is, you actually don’t have to finish something you don’t like just because you already started.

It’s also like the concept of a “sunk cost” in economics. When making a decision – based on economics, anyway – you aren’t supposed to consider the “sunk cost” of whatever time or money you’ve already invested in something. Maybe you already spent 10 hours writing a book about Parcheesi, but you realize partway through that this is just totally not what you’re passionate about. So, should you finish writing the book because you’ve already spent 10 hours writing it? Or should you stop because you’ve realized that this isn’t what you want to do? (Which is different than giving up because you feel discouraged).

I would argue that it’s ok not to finish something like that, because you were making a choice in the first place to spend your time doing that optional thing or reading that book or watching that movie, and you’re allowed to choose something differently.

If you had kept writing that book about Parcheesi just for the sake of finishing it, you might have spent another 100 hours slogging through work that you didn’t want to do when all along you actually had a choice in how you were spending your time. So compared to the overall time that it would have taken to finish the entire project, that initial 10 hours wasn’t all that much. And it was time spent realizing that you wanted to make a different choice.

Are you spending your free time doing things that you love, or things that are just sort of ok? If you don’t like the book you’re reading, read the Spark Notes summary and then find something you like better. Your time is valuable. 🙂

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