Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Your Brain on Completing Tasks to the End




I was lucky to have someone mentor me through my first half marathon.  She would council me on appropriate running gear, how to pace myself, and the right kind of running shoes.  She even got me to eat during the long runs.

"You have to eat something."

"This stuff tastes terrible.  Why would I want to consume a non tasty calorie?  It makes no sense."

"You have to eat something or you won't get through the race."

"I'm not doing it.  Uh.  I feel dizzy."

"That's because you need to eat something.  Take this."

"Fine."

She also taught me something very important about how to end the race.

"Emi, when you get to the last 400 metres before the end of the race, you need to stop, tuck your shirt in, adjust your hair and your hat, and make sure your number is well displayed. There is going to be a photographer at the end and you want to make sure you look good for the picture."

At the time, this felt like a gross waste of time and energy.  Who cares about looking good for the finish line?  I just want to get across it in one piece!

But she had a point.  A very good one.

And I have since learned to take that advice not just in my runs but in my life.  I am a terrible finisher.  The last bits of my knitting projects take forever to complete.  I have taken to "cheating" by bringing them to my mamma, who happens to be an excellent finisher of all things knitted. My writing often lacks a solid ending. The last few months completing my PhD cost me handfuls of hair and a couple of panic attacks.

As I round the last lap of this "blog a day for 30 days" challenge, I feel my focus wandering and my resolve weakening. Who cares?  Whose reading this stuff anyways?  What does it matter?

Let me tell you why it matters.

Finishing is important for your brain.  It helps you push past the points of "I can't do this."  It stretches your ability to take risks and problem solve. It builds your resilience skills. It builds your perseverance skills.  It builds grit, resolve and accountability.

Extending the definition of finishing helps build excellence and patience.  Teach your children, a job is completed when all of the tasks are finished past the task. The car is washed after all of the garbage and cleaning products are put away in their proper place.  The homework is completed after it has been reviewed, checked and put away in its proper place.  The laundry is completed after it has been taken out of the dryer, folded and put away.  The project is completed once it has been reviewed, evaluated, and set up for future success.

Find your unfinished projects.  Which ones do you need to ditch and which ones do you need to complete?  Go through all of your loose ends and tackle them one by one. It could be something as simple as repairing a loose stair, or getting to that half finished art project you started a year ago. Or maybe it is about finishing off the divorce paperwork or finishing off that difficult conversation you started with your boss.

Complete tasks to the end.  Tuck your shirt in, adjust your hat and make a plan to finish.  There might not be a photo for you at the finish line, but your increased confidence, resilience and patience will be more than enough reward.

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