How to Become a Strong Finisher

Imagine climbing a mountain and getting half way up and saying to yourself,“You know what, I’m going to climb back down and finish this later.”

Sounds silly, but that is what we do all of the time.  We have projects that sit waiting to be completed.  Some people start college but never graduate.  We have books that we never finish reading.  The list goes on and on.  Many people are great at beginning things but can’t seem to finish strong.

You may not realize it, but not being a strong finisher in life can limit your ability to conquer the goals that you have.  Whenever we procrastinate, delay, or put to the side, the things that will help us accomplish our goals, we stunt our potential.

Not only does not finishing cause our lives to stall, we make it harder on ourselves whenever we do decide to start again.  Consider this; every time I begin a new exercise program my muscles are sore for a few days. After a few weeks of routine, the muscles get accustomed to the program and grow stronger.  Thus, no more sore muscles.  Well, when I take some time off, I dread starting again because I know that my muscles are going to be sore again.

That is just one example of why learning to finish strong is so important.  Strong finishers have learned how to remove distractions, conquer procrastination and focus on getting the best result from anything that they start.

What Really Matters

I’ve read-and used to believe-that the most important part of accomplishing goals is getting started.  I no longer believe that.  I now believe that the most important part is finishing those goals the right way.  I mean, what’s more meaningful, the score at half-time or the final score?   The wedding or the 40th anniversary?  The opening credits, or the way a movie ends?

Finishing strong also matters when it comes to the way you live your life. What matters is not where you were born, who your parents are or what your circumstances may be right now.  What matters is the legacy you leave behind.  In all areas of our lives, finishing strong is what makes a successful life.

Not finishing what I started has been an off again-off again-problem for me.  Part of the reason it has been an issue has been because of my interest in doing many different things.  I have so many interests that-in some crazy way-I felt as though I should be doing all of them at the same time.There are many reasons why we do not finish strong.  Here are just a few:

Distractions-Allowing other things to take priority over what your goals are.

What’s more meaningful, the score at half-time or the final score?   The wedding or the 40thanniversary?
The opening credits or the way a movie ends? “ 
Multitasking-Doing too many things and not focusing on just one may cause you to leave many things half done.Procrastination- According to Psychology Today, 20% of people consider themselves chronic procrastinators.

Fear-Being afraid of the results of your efforts can cause you to slow or stop your progress.

“Sometimes, the type of degree doesn’t even matter.  The important part is that they proved that they are able to finish what they start.” 

The World Loves a Finisher

Have you ever watched any sporting event when someone makes a game winning goal?   In basketball, football, and soccer, when a player wins the game in the clutch with shot or kick, that player is usually embraced and carried off on the shoulders of his teammates.

In the everyday world, employers are looking for people who have a degree on their resume instead of the ones that have “some college completed”.  I was having a conversation with a woman in the human resource field and I asked her about the type of college degree she thinks holds the most value when she is reviewing an applicant.  She said, “Sometimes, the type of degree doesn’t even matter.  The important part is that they proved that they are able to finish what they start.”  I’ve heard this type of statement from many different hiring managers as well.

We all want the type of people around us that finish what they start. From the mechanic that repairs your car to the stylist that does your hair, we all what others to finish what they start and we want them to finish well.  If we expect that from others, we should also expect that from ourselves.

How to Finish Strong

By now I hope I’ve been able to convince you that starting is not good enough.  The value comes from finishing what you start.  The problem is, learning to become the type of person that can see a task, project, or anything else to its full completion.  Here are some ways that I learned how to become a strong finisher.

1. Sharpen Your Focus

Losing focus can cause you to get distracted.  When you get distracted you are more likely to abandon what you are doing and turn your attention towards something else.  Before you know it, you have another unfinished project or idea on your hands.

Of course there will be obstacles and challenges that may arise.  Then there are times when you just don’t feel like doing what you’re supposed to be doing.  But those things are all a part of journey.  Learn not to focus on those things but on your goal.

2. Commit to Finishing

Make a commitment to not stop until the job is D-O-N-E!  Make a promise to yourself that-no matter what happens-you will complete what you’ve started.  I promise that the feeling of accomplishment that comes after completing a job well done is so strong that it will fuel your desire to fulfill the next challenge and then the next.

3. Feel Good About Finishing

If you are like me, you get excited about starting something new. Whether it’s a new job or a new relationship, there is something exciting about the beginning stages of a new experience.  But if you want to become a strong finisher, you must learn to love finishing more than starting.

Begin to celebrate the things you complete well.  The next time you complete anything or reach an important milestone, take the time to enjoy it.  Then, remember that feeling and take it with you as you go forward.

4. Test Yourself

A good way to test your finishing ability is to create a metric.  First assign yourself 5 to 10 tasks or projects.  Next, set a time limit or deadline for each project. I would recommend you set the deadline no more than 7 days from the start date.  Then, create a “finish line” for each task.  The finish line is what will let you know when the project is complete.

Once you’ve done that, begin your list of projects.  At the end of the week, check your results.  How many of your tasks were completed?  Now, examine each task and judge whether or not those tasks were done with quality.  If you completed 2 out of 9 tasks, then it is time to evaluate yourself to see why the other 7 things on your list were left undone.

5. Ask The Million Dollar Question

Once you’ve become accustomed to finishing what you’ve started, its time to make sure that you are a strong finisher.  Ask yourself the million dollar question, “Did I do this to the best of my ability?”  This question can be applied to just about anything you do.

If you finally finished reading that book that you started years ago, ask yourself “Did I do this to the best of my ability?  Did I really throw myself into the book?  Did I read for comprehension or did my mind wonder as I was getting closer to the end?”

If you’re in business and have a list of things that need to be competed each day or week, ask yourself, “Did I put my all into each one of these tasks or did I rush through most of them so that I could get done?”  If you are honest with yourself, you may find that there may have been things that you could have done that would’ve made the job better.

The Result

So how do you know that you are a strong finisher?  Along with the overwhelming feeling of accomplishment, other people will begin to notice the change.  Your boss, co-workers, friends and family will have no choice but to recognize your strong finishing ability.

Soon, you will be rewarded with more trust from your peers and customers.  You will be offered more responsibility from your boss and supervisors.  They will see in you a person who is able to not only climb the mountain; but is able to conquer the mountain.

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  • Phil – Less Ordinary Living

    Ralph –

    Finishing is an art form and I really enjoyed your suggestions for how to manage it. I have learned to keep promises to myself and that is the key for finishing. If I commit to doing something now, I bloody well do it – I won’t let myself down. I think this is another great post from you – thanks.


  • ralphjp

    Hi Phil,

    Thanks! Keeping promises is so important to finishing strong. I like what you said about not letting yourself down. Even though it is possible to let others down when we don’t finish, we are letting ourselves down first.

  • mark

    This is an excellent article. One that I will share with people. There is much wisdom in what you say. It is very important to finish, it is equally important to establish metrics so we know when we have finished and if we met the goals that we set for our self. The other component of this is the process. When we focus on our process then the finish line shows up for us. If the process is not right then the finish line becomes a moving and often elusive target.

  • ralphjp

    Thanks for sharing Mark. Really appreciate it 🙂 Its so true that we have to set up metrics. Its hard to get someplace when you don’t even know if you are on the right street.

  • Bailey

    Hey Ralph,

    Great post about finishing strong. It’s such a chronic problem in our modern age that people jump from one thing to another. It must be the instant gratification mindset that a lot people have. But you’re so right, everybody loves someone who can finish.

    Finishing allows trust to be built, it builds our character and improves our confidence. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on those distractions, mutlitasking, procrastination and fear you mentioned.

    p.s thanks for sharing your blog on mine so I could find yours!


  • Lou Sartori

    Excellent post! I am a school teacher and I fight this battle with my students all the time. Most of them are finished with school when they come back from Spring Break. I encourage them that they still have plenty of time and work ahead of them. It feels like I’m talking to the four walls in my classroom. I try to use the analogy of a doctor; lawyer; and, a salesperson. The one thing that they all have in common is that their job is not over until they close(finish). I’m going to print this article and present this to my classes on the first day of each term. Thanks.

  • Sally_Neill

    Hey Ralph,

    What a great post, I love the thought of climbing up a mountain then deciding to finish it later, just sounds so stupid when you put it that way.

    I have to be honest in the past I was guilty of that, but I am a reformed woman!

    Great post, Sally 🙂

  • Muxxex

    Great job Ralph, Everyone can be a great starter but like you said, it’s the finishers that get the job done – the people everyone remembers.

  • Guest

    “Not finishing what I started has been an off again-off again-problem for me.” – it’s called being an entrepreneur 😉 It’s one of those unfortunate side effect of having that entrepreneur spirit that we struggle with constantly.
    Problem for me too…although I have gotten a LOT better with focusing.
    Great article Ralph! You definitely hit it on the nose here. Thanks for sharing!

  • ralphjp

    Yeah, the entrepreneurial spirit does that to ya. I think learning to increase focus is a life-long process. Glad to hear that you’re improving yours 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

  • annahaller

    A very thought provoking post Ralph. I am so guilty of not finishing things and the reasons that you listed were spot on. I am learning everyday though and it’s making me a better person and really want to finish what I started especially as I embark on this internet marketing journey.

    It’s funny you mentioned climbing up a mountain because I just did that a couple of weeks ago (it took a total of 2 hours to climb up it) and I felt like giving up and throwing in the towel a couple of times but pushed myself to keep going and it was sort of emotional for me as I had related it to a lot of things that I’ve done in my life that I didn’t finish. I made it to the top though and was glad I did because it was absolutely beautiful up there and the whole experience was just amazing. Going down was easier than going up and was relieved by that but I proved to myself that I could finish what I started!


  • ralphjp

    Thanks Anna. Good for you! Its funny how physical activities can sometimes reveal the tendencies we have in other parts of our lives. I have had similar revelations when I do any thing that is physically challenging. Thanks for stopping by Anna.

  • Giulietta Nardone

    Hi Ralph,

    Glad to find you! Excellent information. You know I teach essay writing and the ending is probably the most important part. You need to make a good first and a good LAST impression. That’s what folks walk away with.

    You’re right that it’s easy to start, but far more difficult to finish and finish strong. I feel motivated to FINISH a few things today!

  • Leisa Watkins

    Great post Ralph.

    Unfinished projects can lead to so much guilt. You and I seem to have the same problem – our interest in doing so many different things and thinking we can do them all at the same time. All those unfinished projects can lead to such guilt.

    It is important to realize however, that often times those unfinished projects no longer serve us and that it is okay to simply let it go….

    Years ago, during my first pregnancy, I was making a bedding set for my son’s crib. I suddenly ended up on bed rest and he was born early. I never got it done. I hung on to that thing for year thinking I would get it done and give it away to someone as a gift. Deciding that I could just as easily give the supplies away to someone else and let them do the work to finish it was so freeing.

    So it is good once in awhile to take a look at those projects and decide if they are something you really still want to do. If not – it’s okay. Let it go and move on.