Why unfinished projects are so valuable.

posted in: Articles | 8

It seems as if nowadays everybody can get rich with whatever he or she finds interesting. Most blogs and self-help books claim to show you the roads to great success. They advertise the fastest, easiest ways to achieving your goal. But what is your goal?

What if you’re not interested in something long enough to become successful with it? Sometimes my ideas lead to businesses, certifications or other forms of recognized accomplishment. Most of the time, however, they are left unfinished. I lose motivation, drop the project, and never look back. And I don’t mind that at all, because I’m not after the achievement.

I’m after the thrill of discovering something new.

It took me a long time – and a lot of unfinished projects – to realize that what I really love is learning itself. Not becoming rich or successful. Not the detailed execution of my plans. Not strenuously bringing projects to completion.

When I was suddenly absorbed by learning to play the piano, my interest wandered off after I had gained some knowledge on music theory, and all there was left was practicing. Maybe I will come back to it, I’d still love to be able to play the piano one day. But maybe I won’t, and that’s okay. It’s important to realize that a hunger for learning about playing the piano is not the same as a desire to be able to play. It’s important to know what your goal is. Is it tangible success? Or personal growth?

This is incredibly important to figure out, because ignorance about what you really want could be the reason you’re not moving forward. Do you ever want to do so many things that you end up doing nothing? This probably happens because you expect yourself to finish everything you start. Just because other people’s goal is success – i.e., finishing a project – does not mean it has to be the same for you.

As Barbara Sher explains in her book Refuse to Choose; the reason that you stop being interested is that you got what you came for. You have finished, it simply isn’t the finish you had in mind. If you are an exceptionally quick learner, maybe you feel like you’ve gotten the most out of it already. You’re done. Or maybe your goal is to have a bit of knowledge on practically everything in the world. Maybe you’re satisfied when you understand something well enough to explain it to others. Maybe you love that feeling of not completely sucking at something anymore. Maybe you’re like me, and you’re out for the thrill of discovering new things, whether ideas, places, or people.

You do not have to reach expert-level in order for a project to be valuable, and not every interest has to be turned into a bachelor degree or career. Nothing kills a young dream like making it into something you have to do forever. Just follow up on whatever idea you have, and see where you it takes you. Don’t even bother finishing. Just start.

Why? Because if you didn’t, you wouldn’t be moving forward at all.

Every time I visit a library, I walk out with an unnecessarily big pile of books. On average, I read only one or two books out of every ten I bring home.

Imagine that I would held back at the library, thinking ‘I may not read that, I better not even bother taking it home’. I would never read anything at all. This is an example of small scale, but applicable to every idea you have, whether it’s a million-dollar business plan, or a great idea for a painting to make.

The key to moving forward is trying, doing, failing, but showing up. 

But isn’t it selfish to want many things? Shouldn’t I choose one and stick with it? I think not. Just as your muscles need a regular workout, your brain is in need of exercise too. As you train for a general feeling of fitness, and not to get ripped after one day at the gym, so you learn for the sake of learning; to be humbled, fascinated, inspired, and to challenge your beliefs and perception. You learn to never stop growing.

Without the pressure of having to finish everything I start, I excitedly follow up on almost every idea that comes to my mind.

Imagine doing this your whole life. Wouldn’t it be amazing to live a life led by your curiosity? Think about all the things you could explore, create, and discover! My growth-mindset has led me to traveling the world, reading a couple of hours a day, writing about my adventures, moving to another country, a variety of interesting jobs, and meeting the most fascinating people.

You can do that, too. Be grateful for your brilliant ideas, all of them, because not everybody can be endlessly entertained by their own thoughts. It’s not a resource to be exploited, but a gift to be enjoyed.

What do you think about your unfinished projects? Do you beat yourself up over it? I’d love to hear about your thoughts. Feel free to leave a comment below.

8 Responses

  1. alclunnie
    | Reply

    So right. I was just writing a post of my own and mentioning that I have a Udemy course I enrolled in that is 96% complete. 96%. But that was maybe 10 months ago. I just don’t feel like I need those extra 4%.

    • Rikky D. T. Maas
      | Reply

      Ha, exactly! You’ve got what you wanted in that 96% percent! 🙂

  2. Michael Knouse
    | Reply

    I really enjoyed this so much – to learn for the pure thrill of discovering something new. I love the idea of going through life filled with such curiosity that I try new things that I think I will enjoy without all the pressure to master or “finish” it. This is such a refreshing perspective and one that is sorely missing from a culture that shames us for not finishing things. Some of the best experiences in my life have been those that were brief but intensely creative and interesting. So good!

    • Rikky D. T. Maas
      | Reply

      Yes to this! I’m happy you cherish those moments in your life, Micheal. Thank you for your wonderful thoughts.

  3. Tessa Armstrong
    | Reply

    This was an amazing article! Thank you so much for sharing it. I am just like this always starting things and never finishing them. I love how you talk about just being a life long learner and not worrying about whether something is fully completed. I always looked at not finishing as a negative, something that I needed to ‘fix’, but it can be a gift to be cherished. <3

    • Rikky D. T. Maas
      | Reply

      Thank you for your sweet response, Tessa! I’m happy it was valuable to you.

  4. chrisblubaugh
    | Reply

    Rikky, love, it’s like you read my mind. This is me. I’m interested in everything. I want to travel everywhere. My brain aches to study and learn this thing and that thing and then move on to something else. I’ve had a million jobs, a million other hobbies, and I’ve never wanted to do the same thing my entire life. What I LOVE about this post is your philosophy on accepting and even celebrating this about myself! I’ve always sort of felt like I wasn’t disciplined enough or that I’m too flighty. But, as you pointed out, I just want to stimulate my brain. Mind blown. Thanks so much for this perspective, you seriously just changed my life <3

    • Rikky D. T. Maas
      | Reply

      Oh Chris, thank you for your beautiful words! You are too kind. I’m so glad you found recognition in my post. And yay for brain stimulation!

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