On the surface the question posed in the title of this piece seems absurd, I know.

Yet, here I am asking you to consider how the indescribable feeling and connection you felt when you met your “one” is connected to starting a new project. Asking you to see how the magic and mystery of a new love (with a new person or reignited within an existing relationship) is also present when kicking off a new project.

As crazy as I know this may sound, the parallels between a new project and new love are so obvious to me. With both, there is the excitement that tends to fuel the extra effort you put forth in the beginning. With both, there are sacrifices you happily make. With both, your heart is wide open and you’re enthusiastic about all the possibilities that lay ahead.

Does any of this ring true when you think about the last time you fell in love and/or the last time you started a new project?

If so, then do you find yourself feeling surprised when the sizzle wanes? Even though you have plenty of experiences that prove this feeling of newness can’t last forever!

At the start of a brand new relationship or brand new project, perhaps one of the biggest obstacles is not anticipating the honeymoon phase will subside.

Your heart may be wide open, but your eyes are wide-shut. As a result, you are unprepared for what is really a natural progression.

It’s at this point that some people give up on (potentially) great relationships.

It is also at this point that progress, on some projects, comes to a complete halt – with no set restart date on the horizon.

How many of your projects are in the purgatory of being incomplete?

It sucks, right? It sucks because until you decide to abandon a project or commit to finishing it, it is taking up space. Sometimes that space is physical, emotional or mental. At others, it is taking up energetic space. Any one of these can be draining; the combination of two, three or all four can be exasperating.

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to talk about how to finish the year stronger. (This is also the theme of this month’s dinner.) And one of the things that needs to be addressed are the unfinished projects on your plate.

The Price of Incomplete

Here’s the thing: Every single one of us has on our to-do list a lingering, incomplete project…or two or three!

What I’ve come to believe is that unfinished projects represent decisions not yet made.

This can be due to a variety of factors. Perhaps:

  • you’re no longer inspired; 
  • the project became too emotional; 
  • you’re having a hard time sticking with the habits the project requires;
  • your goals and/or priorities changed; 
  • it’s no longer glamorous (or fun to do);
  • it gotten too complex and the scope expanded beyond what you initially envisioned;   
  • you didn’t create a robust enough financial budget for it; or
  • (fill in the blank)

Getting curious about the reason you stopped working on a project is important if it’s something you really want to finish. But also, the reason your project hit a roadblock largely determines why some incomplete projects haunt you and others don’t.

We’re going to focus on those incomplete projects that haunt you.

Because those are the ones for which you are paying a price for the decisions you aren’t making.

When the magic fades in a relationship, you don’t just abandon it (unless there are serious problems). Instead, you take time to give the relationship new energy.

The same is true when you reach the equivalent moment with your unfinished projects. It’s not necessarily a time to abandon what you started; rather, it’s time to figure out what caused the momentum to wane and how to revitalize it.

Law of Inertia

A project at rest stays at rest, so let’s get those unfinished projects that are haunting you back in motion. Here’s how:

Identify the pattern

Do a brain dump of ALL your projects – don’t make a distinction (yet) between work and personal projects or whether it’s important or not. Just list all the projects on paper (get them out of your head).

Next to each project mark the date you started the project, along with your why. (If you can’t remember your why, what might that mean?)

When did you notice you stopped working on it (approximate dates are fine)? Can you recall the trigger? (See list above for ideas if none come to mind immediately.)

Doing this step reveals a lot more than simply the total number of projects on your plate. The start and stop dates, as well as the reason you pressed pause, contain useful insight for you to noodle on.

What’s the real problem?

Sure, the factors that may cause you to abandon a project are many and varied, but the overarching reason is likely either due to a lack of motivation, a lack of follow-through, or a bit of both.

For each of the projects on your “paused” list, annotate it with “M,” “F/t” or “B.” And tally up your totals for each.

Again, insight!

Discover the price

What’s the price you’re paying for this incomplete status? A helpful way to assess this is to determine what kind of space this unfinished project is occupying; is it: physical, emotional, mental, attention, energetic, etc.? In what ways is this unfinished project distracting you from other endeavors and projects?

Make a decision, part 1

Does the project still matter to you? If yes, why? If no, why not – what changed? Are you ready to move forward?

Make a decision, part 2

Now, it’s time to determine whether you want to ditch the project (I call this ditch on purpose); keep going, but maintain the current status of “pause” for an indeterminate amount of time; keep and resume on a specific start date.

Everything has phases

You don’t need to get every project back on track. But if it really and truly matters to you, this framework can help you to do so. So to can remembering that everything has phases.

Whether we are talking about love or projects, there are phases. We start off smitten and then a shift occurs. In love, the shift might happen with the first fight. With projects, it might occur at the first challenge or onerous task or “hard” decision.

Whether we are talking about love or projects, when the shift happens, the point isn’t (necessarily) to abandon the relationship or project. It very well may be the invitation you didn’t know you needed to go deeper and recommit to what you started and said you wanted.

That’s why I believe an important first step to finishing the year stronger is to take a closer look at your unfinished projects, your unmet goals, the actions you’ve not taken, the decisions you’ve postponed, and the conversations you’re avoiding. And why.

Hidden in what created the pause are clues for how to revitalize it. Just like hidden in the reasons when the initial magic of new love (or deeper love within an existing relationship) fades are clues for how to bring back the excitement! -:)

Hmm…perhaps the question of this post isn’t so off the mark after all! Not only is starting a project like falling in love. So, too, is sustaining it through various stages.

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