What Do You Really Want?

It isn't normal to know what we want. It is a rare and difficult psychological achievement.

—Abraham Maslow

We've now looked at the many things we tell ourselves about why we can't finish our projects. I just said "tell ourselves" for a particular reason. One main concept at Finishing School is that we all have only limited awareness of our motivations. This is because, as we said in the previous section, the socialization process often involves bad experiences and feelings that we don't want to re-experience. So, instead of confronting our original pain directly, we shut down parts of ourselves and substitute the stories we have learned to tell ourselves about why we can't finish (and how, some day, we will). At the same time, we feel that we need to finish in order to, finally, validate our self-worth. In effect, the stakes have now become too high for us to feel comfortable staying in the game. So what can we do about this conundrum?

The first step is to ramp down the stakes. How can we do that?

In order to ramp down the stakes and calm down your finishing conflicts, you need to examine more fully the real, complete set of motivations that are compelling you to finish and that are also keeping you from finishing.

For example, you may be aware that you want to finish your thesis so you can graduate from the Ph.D. program in art history you're enrolled in. If we ask you why you want to graduate, you'd tell us that you want to get a good job and also feel the satisfaction of earning a diploma. But what if another reason you have for finishing is to finally show your parents that you're smart enough to finish graduate school, but, in fact, you're not sure that finishing will actually accomplish that — and the truth is that you might write your final thesis and your committee just might reject it, demonstrating (to yourself and your parents) that you didn't make the grade after all?

Or what if you're telling yourself that, once you finish that set of songs, you're going to perform them in clubs and maybe become a successful musician — but, then again, maybe that won't happen. Maybe you'll be "found out" to have less than the charisma you need, and you'll have to face some shameful feelings you've been avoiding all these years?

If you have motivations for finishing that you're conflicted about (and probably not seeing fully), it's important to at least try to increase your awareness of them. This is because, when you allow some of that material to surface, you will most likely see that, what felt so painful in the past cannot hurt you in that same way in the present. This is a basic premise of Finishing School: Awareness leads to Freedom.

In the Finishing School book we present you with extensive exercises which are designed to help you get at all the reasons you want to finish your projects — but are afraid to. And then, once you know more about the conflicts that are keeping you stuck, you can go through the rest of the book, which is devoted to discussions and exercises designed to help you ramp down those conflicts, allowing you to (finally) get to work to achieve your real-life achievable goals.

For now, you might want to ask yourself the following questions:

- What do I anticipate will happen if I finish my project? (make a list, including any and all possibilities, no matter how likely you think they are to happen)

- How will each possible outcome make me feel?

- Which outcomes may be preventing me from finishing? Why?

In the next section we're going to present you with a large sample of thoughts and exercises from Finishing School to help you begin the process of ramping down the stakes of your project and learning to accept your conflicts (and yourself) as they exist right now.


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