by Father Mark Goldasich
It’s the words that I love to hear: “OK, let’s finish strong!”
When they’re uttered, I know that my torture is at an end . . . and that I’ve survived once again. Of course, the “torture” is euphemistically called a “workout” by Jasper, my personal trainer. Twice a week — on Wednesdays and Saturdays —this patient person has worked to get me in better shape.
But it’s those words, “finish strong,” that truly are inspirational as well as encouraging. I’m a great starter — of hobbies, books, projects and resolutions — but an incorrigible finisher.
Knowing this, my Leaven staff took bets when I started my exercise program on just how long I’d continue with it. That I’ve stuck with it for 19 months now has surprised even me. And that determination to “finish strong” is starting to ooze into other areas of my life.
Unfinished tasks are what business writer David Allen describes as “open loops” in his best-selling book “Getting Things Done.” Subconsciously, these items are constantly niggling our brain, zapping our energy. If you find yourself exhausted at the end of each day and can’t figure out why, it could be that “open loops” are doing a number on you.
“Finish strong” has become my new mantra, especially when I face something that I’ve procrastinated on for a long time. It’s then that feelings of guilt start to trickle in to strangle my motivation. That’s when I remind myself of this little story:
There was once a wise old woman who was a piano instructor. Over the years, without fail, when she was preparing her students for a recital, she’d have them practice the conclusions over and over again.
And naturally, the kids would grumble over the constant repetition of the last few measures of music. When one would get the courage to complain out loud, here’s how the teacher would respond:
“You can make a mistake in the beginning or you can make a mistake in the middle. The people will forget it, though, if you make the ending glorious!” (Adapted from Paul J. Wharton’s “Stories and Parables for Preachers and Teachers.”)
Yes, there is a real sense of accomplishment when you finish strong, make the end glorious, close off some of those open loops. I’ll bet if you look around you right now, you can spot about a dozen open loops: a smudge on the refrigerator door; some item that belongs in another room; an unread Leaven; a plate that needs to go in the dishwasher; a pair of socks on a chair; an unanswered appeal from a favorite charity; a piece of paper to file; a dirty litter box; some trash on the floor; or a box filled with donated items waiting to be delivered.
Now that you’ve noticed these things, go ahead and grab a few minutes to close a few of these easy loops. Really. I’ll wait . . .
OK, now that you’re back, I do want to warn you to be careful with the mantra to “finish what you start.” An internet meme says that a doctor advised people to always finish what they start if they want to discover inner peace.
So, the meme goes on to say, “I looked around my house to find things I started and hadn’t finished. I ended up finishing a large bag of Doritos, a package of cookies, a gallon of ice cream, a six-pak of Bullevard, a bodle of wine and a fith of Skosh. Yu haf no idr how fablus I fil rite now! I got inner peas.”
Seriously, we can all use a bit of perseverance to finish strong on those things that are the most important loops in our life and faith. And the best place to start is by asking for a little heavenly help:
“Dear St. Joseph the Worker, help me to persevere and finish the work I have started. I am so easily distracted. I think of you working steadily and silently in your workshop, an example of constancy for your foster son Jesus. I believe that if I ask, he will grant me the grace to follow your example as well.”
OK, this column is done: That’s one loop closed . . . just 700 more to go!