On Being a Finisher First…

So there is something to be said about finishing. Anything. Something. Even the smallest thing. An inning, an out, a run, a game, a book, a project, a race. Finishing is often more difficult than we know. Finishing is often one of the hardest things we do. But the truth is, we always have a choice. We can finish or we can give up. Sometimes the confusion comes when we don’t know which would be easier.

Life often brings moments. Moments of clarity, followed by moments of muddy waters. And then the dirt settles to the bottom and all becomes clear again. And just when we think we can’t possibly keep going… we know that if we want to succeed, even when we are completely exhausted, we need to take one more step. And then one more. And one more again. And when we continue to do so, we are completing a process that not many people are completely familiar with. We sometimes find it easier to bail when it gets hard or painful or things feel like they may fall apart. We seek shelter under covers or we run and hide during the seek part.

Whether we are laying it all on the line on the field or in an everyday life moment, finishing is so much more than just putting one foot in front of the other. It’s about wearing our hearts on our sleeves and through pain, and hurt and frustration, continuing on. Even when it’s hard. Especially when it’s hard.

The definitions of the word “finish” are: “To finalize, to perfect, to follow through with.”
I love the idea of follow through. So much of life is built around how we follow through, both in sports and in our every day. How, when, and why are all pieces of what following through says about us and perhaps even about our character.

The one definition that I had a partial issue with is “to perfect.” What tends to happen when we try to perfect something is that we often DON’T finish it. We spend so much time worrying about it being exactly right that we get held up in the analysis paralysis and that becomes our only action. Therefore, finishing in this realm is almost impossible.

So what does this all mean as you come to the end of something you worked so hard for? We often say that the hardest part is in the starting. Beginning a task can be just as daunting as the finishing. However, once we start it often becomes easier to keep going. What is hard is getting to the end. Physical, mental and emotional exhaustion will pop up when we least expect it. Feeling like we are not good enough, that we can’t do the thing that we have never done before… not knowing what happens next. Finishing then becomes scary. And we don’t know whether we are more afraid to fail or to succeed. And a thousand things jump up to distract us. The pain in our bodies, the discomfort of the moment, the anxiety we feel when we are at that moment where it all rests on our shoulders.

In those moments, we are defined by our ability to be finishers. We can be defined by the outcome, or we can define the process. It has often been said that most people don’t remember second place. However, I beg to differ. It doesn’t much matter that no one else remembered where you finished. What really matters is that you got there. And I am pretty sure that wherever it was, YOU remembered being there. The outcome isn’t what made you who you are. No, you were defined by the process you went through to be there. And it’s a lot easier for someone who wasn’t even in the game to say second place doesn’t matter. It matters. So does fifth, sixth and twelfth. You were in the game. You played. You won and lost and you finished. Maybe not the outcome you wanted… but you finished.

So when you are coming to the end of a long, hard journey and you are wondering what happens now– whether your season is over or you made it to postseason, or when you come to the end of your career, or the end of your race or your own graduation from anywhere or anything, simply remember the process of being a finisher. The outcome isn’t as critical, it’s the fact that you did it that matters most.
And find solace in knowing that it isn’t as important to be a first finisher, but to focus on being a finisher first.

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