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Tweet to self: about finishing

Sorting through the file cabinet the other day I discovered eleven files that were empty. They were the compilation of work I had dedicated to eleven different projects in 2016. You know, nada. Nothing. Zip. Zero. No doubt they were worthy ideas, thoughts triggered by the rich prospects of the New Year. Just as clearly, my resolve in arranging them, typing the labels, and giving them prominence in my file cabinet amounted to little more than good intentions. Evidently, as these empty files attested, I had joined the ranks of millions of other quitters in our culture. Maybe it's true. There may be something to the the observation that we're suddenly a society of people who start much and finish little. Ouch! That's the first tweet to self in 2017: Sonny, you never finish anythi...

Which is odd. Quitting isn't usually my modus operandi. With achiever, belief, and input among my signature themes (see StrengthFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath, Gallup Leadership, 2007) follow through is more my tendency. Something in my operating systems usually has me finishing what I start: activated by an achiever who likes to get things done; driven by a belief motivator; and prepared by gathering the stuff to make it happen. On one hand, it may be a newly discovered dilemma for the retired me, laying back a notch and shoving the files of lower passion projects to the back section of the alphabetized dividers. But, wait. Retirement was two years ago. Those newly acquired habits should be passe by now. So, what's the deal? Oh yeah! Take note of the title of my web site and the book I authored in 2015. Finish.Period. Give me a a break.

From another angle, these empty files, at first glance thought to be out of character, may be a reflection of several significant shifts in my own personal autonomy or my own acclimation to a culture that likes to give the impression of doing much. You know, the good old American work ethic. In other words, these empty files may be a prima facie case of me taking on too much. Which really isn't the problem. No, the problem is the underlying truth that would make a busy person create too many files in the first place. What causes such carelessness?

Well, there is the retirement thing to some degree. Every retired person I know claims the stretched truth that they're busier in retirement than they were when they were employed, providing for a family, and on the treadmill sixty hours a week. Well, that's really cool when people find useful useful involvements in their retirement years. But, it can't be real. In my opinion this busy thing in post-career years is a fear of appearing lazy or without purpose or having some constructive use in life. Desiring to feel necessary at some level may have led me to create too many files as last year scrolled across my identity screen. This is especially troublesome in a world where worth is measured by activity or involvement.

Even if that's even partially the deal however, several deeper reasons enter this empty file picture, even for people who are not wrestling with work decisions, more time on their hands, or what they're going to do in retirement. I mean, even very occupied people are afflicted with the tendencies of not finishing anythin...

1. Passions are unfulfilled.

Most of us agree that God formed us for a purpose. We can read and quote

verses from Psalm 139 and Jeremiah 29:11 as proof texts for our mission in life.

Often, these passions and purposes and missions are outside the parameters

of our daily work assignments. So, the empty files may be attempts to fill the

voids of missing passion.

2. Somebody else is pulling my strings.

Those empty files may have been occasioned in my attempts to curry the favor

of other people. This was true in my previous business career and in 35 years

as a pastor, projects and dreams impressed on me by others. Now they are a

reminder that I'm to calibrate my life according to God's plan and not that

imposed by the people around me. This year I'll remember Galatians 1:10 when

I start planning projects.

3. My rose colored glasses distort reality.

Here's a personal confession: I always see more in a situation than is actually

there. This includes honest evaluation of my own abilities. Here, the reminder is

from Romans 12:3, ESV: "For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among

you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think

with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has

assigned." This rose colored glasses thing may be an element of pride I should

consider when making my 2017 files.

4. Planning/preparation systems are dysfunctional.

Jesus said, " For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down

and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?" (Luke 14:28,

ESV). Some of those empty files were no doubt commitments I had not

evaluated properly. In 2017 I need to be a little more adept at measuring the

requirements of my commitments.

5. Accountability may be lacking.

Humans need other people. Taking on too much is often the result of ignoring

the importance of others is our decision processes. Numerous Scriptures affirm

the role of counselors in our planning and fulfillment of life purpose. One from

Proverbs is enough to guide me: "Listen to advice and accept instruction, that

you may gain wisdom in the future" (Proverbs 19:20, ESV).

So, here's my Tweet to self as I begin 2017: Sonny, you never finish anythi...

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