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5 Truths You Need to Know if You’re Great at Starting Things but Not Good at Finishing Them

5 Truths You Need to Know if You’re Great at Starting Things but Not Good at Finishing Them

It’s 3am and I’m nursing my baby in the dark, and a blog post idea pops into my head.

I’m driving to the dentist, and suddenly I have the perfect hook for my next sales email.

Suddenly the outline for the book crystallizes as I’m lying in the grass with my toddler.

Ideas. Ideas. Ideas. Ideas.They’re like breathing to me.

Inhale and exhale. One idea. And then another. And then another.

Years ago, before babies and householding, when I felt like I “got paid to journal” rather than run a real business, when I got an idea I was excited about, I took action on it immediately.

I’d never even considered trying delayed idea initiation gratification.

My cycle was: Get excited about an idea. Get it started. Get excited about the next idea. Get it started. Revisit the first idea and work on it a little bit more until the next new idea comes along. Start the next one. Then start something else that feels exciting. Never finish anything.

I lived in creative chaos and couldn’t get the kind of financial traction I desired. But more than anything, I felt like there was something I was meant to be doing creatively that was just out of my reach. I was stuck in the shallows, and I just couldn’t figure out how to get past the break to go deeper.

If you know what I’m talking about, you can take a deep breath because here’s what I know:

You can be tapped into infinite, inspired creativity and complete projects effectively without getting bored.

In fact, since I broke the cycle of always starting and never finishing, my ideas have gotten richer and my creations deeper and more meaningful.

What I now know is that I was addicted to the high of initiation but that high prevented me from diving deep enough to do the work I came here to do.

Plus, since I stopped working on 10 projects at once and giving myself full permission to start new things before what I was working on was finished, miracles have occurred.

I started making significantly more money than when I was addicted to starting things and jumping around all the time, but far more importantly, I finally feel like I’m doing my work, my real work, despite having been at this writing/teaching/business gig for 8.5 years.

I used to think that if I didn’t act immediately upon a “good” idea, it would vanish, that I would be dishonoring it in some way.

I now know the following:

Getting past the break to swim in the depths has required me to sharpen my powers of focus and prioritization. And it’s required me to slow down in ways that are uncomfortable at first but so delicious over time.

Here’s what I recommend trying if you want to move from “starting addiction” to steady, powerful progress that gets you in touch with work that’s deep and impactful:

Bonus step: Cross anything off the list that doesn’t feel aligned, that you’re doing for someone else but you resent doing, or that you simply don’t want to do! #doless

(I get that sometimes we have to finish things because we promised we would or because they pay the rent. Get those done first so you can free up your time and energy for the one that lights you up.)

You’ll get so much traction from working on one thing until completion that you’ll have more energy than you ever had before to complete projects.

Focus is the fuel of creation and it’s self-renewing. twitter-logo

As a recovering starting addict, I invite you to join me. Getting out past the break is so worth it.


What’s the project that lights you up the most and/or feels most important to you? Tell me about it in the comments!

  • Katrina says:

    I totally resonate with this! I plan on starting my IG TV Channel this year as my biggest project. That’s what I want to do and will make that my priority by the end of 2018. Thanks for the beautiful post!

  • Elaine says:

    I’m addicted to bright ideas and starting stuff too! My desktop is the graveyard for all my online course ideas started and left unfinished. I have finally focused. Hunkered down and committed to making this idea a reality. I’m no longer the puppy chasing butterflies, twirling and jumping and snapping; I’m focused and clear, strategically making a course that will help so many. It’s called How to Move from Stressed to Your Best. Yes, we teach the things we need to learn.

  • Genevieve says:

    Loved this one. I can relate to the high of starting and feeling the magical pull of a million ideas. Right now I keep coming back (over and over) to what feels most important to me: helping people simplify and declutter to live their best lives. It’s about doing less and being more.

  • Lorre says:

    The project that lights me up is my already self-published book about Kindness. THE GIFT OF THE UBI (pronounced “U – Be”). I am in the process of trying to get it into the hands of everyone from the top administrators to parking lot attendants to all doctors and nurses and especially all PATIENTS at The James Cancer Center and Nationwide Children’s Hospitals in Columbus, Ohio. The research on the healing benefits of kindness is staggering. I believe I can help.

  • Jenn says:

    Walking away from ideas is hard to do sometimes. I’m reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and I love how she talks about ideas as being their own “thing” – like a magical entity. If you don’t take hold of an idea, it may go to someone else. Or sometimes, they come back to you. I let go of a project this fall that I didn’t love. I was pushing myself to make it happen instead of using the pull of a YES idea. And now, I am working on my YES project launching in March 2019. I’m so glad I knew to do that. I thought of you a lot and sat on the egg.

    • Kate Northrup says:

      Yes to letting go of a project! I love Big Magic too, but I do feel like when she talks about an idea going to someone else that it can trigger our feelings of lack and grasping and then getting overly attached to projects because we’re afraid someone else is going to take them. So I like to affirm that what is for me cannot pass by me…which obviously you do, too, since you were willing to let go of something to welcome something even bigger in!

  • Lisa says:

    I’ve been a photographer for decades, but I couldn’t stand to keep it as a hobby anymore, so two years ago, at the age of 60, I left my 9-to-5 windowless cubicle to turn my hobby into a business. I’m an idea machine, always conjuring up photoshoot or video ideas. The struggle I have is getting others excited along with me, mainly because most of my “good ideas” are personal projects with NO BUDGET, so I can’t pay people to participate. I guess money would get them excited. How do I get people excited about my ideas and to support my vision when I know I can’t compensate them financially?

  • Maggie says:

    First I want to say, wow and thank you for this post! It resonates so deeply with me. I often joke that if I could be paid just for idea generation, I’d be a very rich woman.

    I’ve actually been working on a much deeper level of focus and pinpointing my lights-on, most important work and finishing that. I joine Origin with that intention. So, yay for serendipity!

    I’m currently working on putting together a monthly membership that combines physical products I make with online teaching and digital offerings. And I’m super excited about it and have committed to making it my main focus to bring it to manifestation. I’ve been working towards this for a few years in my business and I feel it’s finally come in clearly and is ready to be brought to life. You know. On top of homeschooling my daughter. So. I’m not attached to timing, but I am committed to finishing!

    • Kate Northrup says:

      I love your idea and I love your focus. I can feel it from here. Cheering you on as you work towards manifesting your vision!

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