I’ve done it time and time again. Maybe you have, too.
I’ll decide it’s time to tackle that project in the dumpster fire that is the usual state of our garage. I’ll start out with visions of a sweeping clean-out, with the floor clear and the walls visible, every tool, camping item, bolt, nut, and random boogie board assigned their own spot. The clutter will be banished, the bins will be color-coordinated and stacked. I start hauling it all out, littering the driveway with the flotsam and jetsam of banished furniture, old tricycles, flat soccer balls, and random bits of lumber from projects gone by.
It’s a magnificent start. That usually sputters, whines, gasps, and collapses as the hours pass and the Texas afternoon temperatures rise.
As I start shoving all the debris back into the garage, sometime late in the day, I’m reminded again…it’s not how you start. It’s how you finish.
We’ve been on a journey together the last few weeks, 21 days of fasting. The team here at Altrua HealthShare has been fasting together, ushering in the new year by intentionally connecting with our Creator and setting our intentions for the year. It’s a journey I hope you’ve joined us on.
And it’s a good time for me to remind myself, and maybe it’s a good reminder for you too, to be intentional about finishing strong and reviewing what we’ve learned.
Check out this great quote:
“Every task, goal, race and year comes to an end…
therefore, make it a habit to FINISH STRONG.” — Gary Ryan Blair
Whether you’ve been part of the Altrua HealthShare 21-day fast or you launched 2021 with some specific resolutions, keeping an eye on what you want the finish to look like is an important focus. Too often, just like my garage-cleaning loop, I can start off with all kinds of resolve and vigor. But all that work, all that rearranging and sorting of stuff doesn’t look all that productive when I don’t find the steam to finish the job.
Perseverance is the key ingredient to any undertaking.
And it seems to me that there are a couple of enemies of perseverance… Fatigue and Distraction.
When it comes to fatigue, to burn-out, there are two important questions to ask yourself when pursuing a goal:
- Have I pushed too hard and pushed for an unrealistic deadline or goal?
- Am I just bored and calling it fatigue or burnout?
I’ve definitely set some unrealistic goals from time to time. But more recently, it’s the boredom thing that I sometimes misidentify as fatigue. Let’s face it, incorporating new habits, abstaining from social media, being consistent with a healthy eating plan, it can get downright boring. Blah. So it’s important to ask yourself if you need a short break or if you need to grit it out, even when the dazzle of a new season starts to ebb.
And then there is this enemy of perseverance:
We can start out on a new project or a fresh goal with a lot of focus. We buy the new workout gear. We download the fancy new app that tracks our water intake or calories. We deep dive into new websites pertaining to our goal. We find affinity groups on Facebook.
And then…time passes. And the workout gear starts to look a little worse-for-the-wear. And then we forget to use the app. And we’ve already seen all the websites. And a few days go by before we log into the Facebook group. We get distracted, and beyond whatever level of self-discipline or desire we brought to the table, it can get sidelined when we start searching other headlines.
There’s a lot of wisdom about staying focused in this passage from Scripture:
“Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.
Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure.”
I’m trying to keep that in mind for the next garage clean-out session, the next fitness goal, the next reach for cleaner eating habits. I need to stay with it, stay focused, and not allow the distraction of a ‘new’ thing get in the way to pull me off the path.
I downloaded a wallpaper for my phone for January, one that serves as a great reminder, both during the Altrua HealthShare team fast and for other goals I’ve set for the year. The wallpaper has these words: Chapter 1 of 12. We’ve got 12 chapters we’re writing this year, 12 months to live out the things we’ve said are important. This first month of the year, this January of 2021, has been our first foray into what will be the book of this year.
Maybe your Chapter 1 has been filled with personal accomplishment and a refreshing time of reconnecting with God. Or maybe you’ve found perseverance illusive, hampered by inadequate rest, boredom, or distraction.
Here’s the good news.
Next month begins Chapter 2 of 12. And you can start writing new promise into it.
But before you get there, take these last few days of Chapter 1 and give it a strong ending. Make good on how you started. Finish well.
And then begin again.
Disclaimer: this information on fasting is for the purposes of spiritual fasting, meaning the practice of abstaining from activities or habits for a spiritual purpose. It is not advice on abstaining from food or liquid. Before undergoing any kind of fasting pertaining to nutrition, consult with your medical professional.