Kicking the abandonment habit (and how others can help)

Like many others, I have a nasty habit of leaving things unfinished. This tendency has affected just about every aspect of my life, from writing to personal relationships. A trail of unfinished poems, songs, drawings, stories and scripts can only attest to this. Although abandonment is never my intention, when the initial excitement of something has passed—or worse, when something even better appears—my instinct is always to move right along and forget it ever happened. 

You see some variation of it everywhere: in books, in movies, on the Web—the flaky girlfriend, the guy who won’t commit, the college student who can’t decide on a major. This problem seems to be especially prominent during our teens and twenties. But why is it so hard for these individuals to just stick with something?

For myself, I think that my inability to see things through is usually routed in a combination of fear and discontent. For most of us (and this is certainly true for me), there is no harsher critic than ourselves. The fear of not being good enough can be crippling. It’s no wonder that it often seems easier to walk away from something too soon, than to see it through and possibly fall flat on your face. 

For example: in relationships, I am constantly worried about what the other person thinks of me. An eternal pessimist, I tend to assume the worst and keep them at a distance—that is, if I don’t shut them out altogether. When I am able to take a step back and examine the situation, I rarely have any evidence to support my insecurities. Instead, I usually realize that I have projected my dissatisfaction with myself onto the other person. Still, the fear of what could have happened if I had put myself out there is pretty hard to overcome—and by this point I’ve jumped ship anyway. 

This negative attitude translates to my writing as well. I get ideas all the time, and sometimes I get really excited about one. At first, I’ll put all my energy into it. I’m always so pumped about how great this idea is and all the possibilities it could lead to. Once the initial burst of inspiration is over, reality sets back in and I decide to put off finishing it until later. Excitement is then replaced by anxiety and doubt—and as anyone with this problem knows, I never go back. 

The reason I spilled my guts about this is that I recently decided to write a novel. I have never been much of a fiction writer, but I had this bizarre, incredibly vivid dream a few weeks ago and woke up with an entire world inside my head. While this is certainly not the first time that a dream has inspired me to write, this feels different—like it’s something I have to do. That said, aside from a painstakingly thorough outline, I have made very little progress since those first few days. Although I usually don’t discuss these things (that way if I totally blow it, no one will know), my hope is that by sharing this, I will be shamed into working on it. 

Whether this turns out to be a good plan or not, perhaps simply sharing your feelings and goals with others is a step towards kicking the abandonment habit. Although I believe that it’s impossible to be truly happy with anything (or anyone) until you are first content with yourself, having someone there for encouragement certainly helps.

You, readers, are my insurance policy against my own bad habits. Let’s just hope it works.

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