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Oh to finish strong like Michelle Obama!

If there is one figure in the US political circus who has come out a hero, it is Michelle Obama.  Over the last eight years she has gone from what CNN’s David Axelrod called “a reluctant conscript on the public scene” to a much admired icon who can “command the stage.”

But finishing strong isn’t as easy as Michelle Obama has made it look.  Finishing strong, whether in a job, a project, a relationship or even a season, is in fact something many of us struggle with for a number of reasons:

  1. Sometimes you are just fed up with the whole damn thing and you want it to end. But instead of actually causing it to end, you loiter, making a nuisance of yourself, and even becoming a danger to yourself and others.  The cure for this is to grow some balls, take the bull by the horns, and expedite that ending.  You do more damage to yourself and to those you should be serving if you remain in a spot that no longer interests or motivates you.
  1. Of course it’s also entirely possible for one not to finish strong because they didn’t really start out with any specific end in mind. Sometimes we do this because we are afraid to name our ambition.  We are too much in awe of the thing we desire and so we pretend that we don’t desire it – that way no one will know or care if we fail to achieve it.  If on the other hand we say out loud what it is we hope to achieve and then fail to achieve it, people will laugh at us, and that will make us feel foolish.  Additionally not specifying the goal means we can keep moving the goal posts, even in internal conversations with ourselves.  A typical example of this is chasing weight loss goals: “if I don’t tell anyone that I initially intended to lose 10kgs, but I only lose 3 then I can just pretend that 3kg was the intended goal all along…”  I don’t know who you think you are fooling with that little bit of trickery, but the victory is a hollow one for sure.
  1. In some cases boredom sets in long before the end time, but we are embarrassed to say we are bored, (we’re not teenagers after all) and too lazy or too cowardly to say anything so we let the whole thing fizzle out of steam before we get off. Apparently for some people the pain of waiting the whole thing out is somehow more bearable that the pain of facing facts early on. As one of those individuals who hates prolonged good-byes, I find it difficult to relate to this one. I’d rather finish than fizzle! But hey, different strokes for different folks….
  1. In my journey as a long distance runner, I have learnt (sometimes through painful error) that if you expend too much of your energy at the beginning of a race, you can run out of steam very quickly and dreams of finishing at all, let alone finishing strong (or at least before the cut off time) quickly become a distant memory. You must instead, carefully calculate the distance you must cover, the time available to cover it in, and therefore the speed you must engage at various parts of the race. So it is with life, and with seasons of life:  You must assess the size of the gap between where you are and where you want to go, establish how fast you want to get there, and then carefully figure out how much energy you are going to expend on which pieces of your journey so as to ensure that the energy lasts all the way to the end goal.

They say that to make an end is to make a beginning, and this is one of the most important reasons for a strong finish.  How you exit one season, one job, one relationship, can often have a significant bearing on how you begin the next one.

So as we exit 2016 and prepare to enter 2017, how about we Michelle Obama this thing, and really finish strong.

Photo creditWashington Post

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