Why do we bother finishing anything we start if it's not worth our time? And why would we leave ever waste our time working on something we won't finish? Here's why you should and shouldn't finish what you started.
Photo by Toshimasa Ishibashi
PRO: We All Want a Sense of Accomplishment
Finishing what you started gives you a great sense of accomplishment. Even if it's not something most of us consider fun — like cleaning your house — it's incredibly rewarding to know you accomplished the task anyway. You may not like every project, but if you get started you ought to finish. The sense of accomplishment gives you the self-esteem to know that you can get through anything you set your mind to, even if it's not always your favourite thing to do. You're not going to be able to always do the things you want to do, so it's best to build up a tolerance and the ability to handle the bad along with the good. In the end, you'll be a stronger and better worker.
CON: You Have to Start to Know if Something is Worth Finishing
If you come up with an idea that you think is fantastic, you may start working and find out it's a complete waste of your time. Why should you bother moving forward with that idea if it turns out to be a dud? Sometimes you have to start a project to really know if it's worth large amounts of your time. Finishing a crappy project isn't going to do anyone much good. At best you've wasted your time. At worst you'll be afraid to start new projects with the fear that you'll have to finish them even if they suck. Allow yourself to abandon things when they ought to be abandoned.
Comic by Nataliedee
PRO: You Don't Know The Future
Your life is guaranteed to be boring if you never allow yourself to be surprised. The world has a capricious nature and, if you're open to it, you might discover incredible things you wouldn't if you closed yourself off. Let's say you started watching a movie and, 30 minutes into it, you hate it. You decide to leave. Perhaps the rest of the movie will be terrible, but perhaps you'll learn something incredible or gain something more valuable from the experience that you'd be abandoning if you didn't stick around. You never know what's going to happen, and if you act like you do you'll miss out on a lot. When you commit to finishing what you started you gain new possibilities that you wouldn't otherwise have.
CON: You Know What's Important
Your time is valuable and you generally know the things that matter. If you hate something, don't waste time on it. There is not enough time in the world to remain open to everything you encounter. You can't read and answer every email. You can't finish everything on your to-do list. You can't see every movie you want to and you shouldn't. Some of them are going to suck. If you encounter a crappy movie, walk out. You have better things to do. There's a reason we prioritize our lives: if we didn't, we'd never sleep. Without priorities, choosing A over B, and cutting our losses, we'd never get anything done. Remaining open to every possibility in the world is romantic and idealistic, but it's hardly realistic. Be smart and don't bother finishing anything that doesn't seem to offer any real benefit.
PRO: You Made a Commitment, and You Should Keep It
It's one thing you abandon something on your own, but if you've made a commitment to somebody you've made a promise. When you agree to help somebody with something, they've put their trust in you. They believe you're going to help them. If it's something you might not be able to do or, perhaps, don't actually want to do but just want to help, don't commit in the first place. It's better to be unable to help in the first place than abandon someone after you've made a promise, so if you've made the commitment you better stick to it.
CON: Keeping Commitments That Make You Miserable Doesn't Help Anybody
There's no question that making a commitment to help somebody is an important promise, and it definitely sucks if you have to bail, but who hasn't been in a situation where you promise to help somebody but something unforeseen happens? Or you didn't accurately predict how you'd feel? Or you simply made a mistake? Continuing to work on a project you hate out of obligation is just going to make you miserable, and that's going to make the people you're working with miserable. Additionally, you're probably going to produce a bunch of miserable work. This doesn't help anybody. Keeping the commitment is honorable, but it's not necessarily what's best. Besides, you can always do the right thing and find someone to replace you. That's how it works when you leave a traditional job. Why shouldn't it be the same with one-off commitments as well?
What do you think? Should you always finish what you started or feel free to abandon anything you feel isn't worthwhile? Or are you somewhere in the middle. Share your thoughts in the comments.