How We Sabotage Ourselves

Every man's work, whether it be literature, or music or pictures or architecture or anything else, is always a portrait of himself.

—Samuel Butler

What are you telling yourself about why you can't finish your projects?

When you think about picking up your unfinished project, do you find yourself thinking negative, self-sabotaging this project in the last year?" "Where is the rest of this thing? I'm so disorganized, I've lost half of it!" or "Ugh, why do I have to look at this paper again? I should have graduated years ago!" ? Or — instead of criticizing yourself directly, do you over-question your desires and motivations? For example: "Why should I write a novel? Who do I think I am, anyway?" or "I should be happy with what I have."

You might not have specific negative thoughts as you contemplate working. So here's another question: when you take that manuscript out of the drawer, or pick up that textbook you need to read, do you start to feel...something strange and unpleasant?

The bad feelings might take the form of a slight (or more than slight) tension or anxiety. Maybe your heart beats a little faster. Or you might even feel nothing at all, because you've trained yourself to stop feeling the tension or anxiety. But maybe you find yourself staring at a blank page. You might even start to work on your project a little bit, or think about what needs to be done next. But then you put it back in the drawer. And probably, at *that* point, you're not feeling so good about yourself. People tell themselves all kinds of things about why they can't work, and many of them seem completely reasonable. Here are a few of the most common reasons that we come up with:

I have no TIME

We all have to make a living. Plus, many of us have families to take care of. There's shopping to do, bills to pay, cats to feed. Most of us have more than enough to do just to get through each day — so our unfinished projects will just have to stay unfinished — for another day, or year, or...

I have no SPACE

I work in New York City, where most people don't have a nice, quiet, well-appointed space in which to do their work. The idea of sitting at a small kitchen table and tackling a novel or thesis (that made us anxious to work on in the first place) seems impossible. We might think, "if only I had my own office, then I'd be able to work." Well, maybe...

I have no MONEY

"How," you ask yourself, "can I justify spending my valuable time working on something that doesn't guarantee financial rewards? Okay, so by not finishing that final coursework I never got my degree, but somehow I'm making it in the world anyway, so who am I to rock the boat?" Or, "Yes, I'd like to finish my novel and try to get it published, but we all know that 99.999% of novels don't make any money, so what kind of idiot would I be to invest months, maybe years, in finishing it, when my lifestyle is going to stay the same? If I'm going to spend my valuable time, space, and money, shouldn't it be for something that is CERTAIN to add financial value to my life?"

Beyond The Obvious

Lack of time, space, and money are "realistic" reasons that stand in the way of finishing projects that are not absolutely necessary to finish. Maybe you really would be able to work better in your own office, with unlimited time and no money worries. But, then again, maybe not. As we all know, there are plenty of people who are as busy as you are and have little money but they're able to accomplish a lot. At Finishing School we believe that the reasons we tell ourselves about why we do (and think and feel) things are only part of the story. Conflicts often go deeper than we're conscious of. We can see this more clearly in the next section, where we show you a variety of finishing conflicts that go beyond the top, practical layer and into the deeper recesses of our awareness, where our basic views of ourselves and our lives reside.

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