Four Reasons Why You Never Finish What You Start

This article explores four obstacles that can derail your life goals. Hustle culture, limiting beliefs, too tight a grip, and losing sight of God’s role in shaping your goals.

  1. Getting sucked into the hustle culture
  2. Bumping against limiting beliefs
  3. Gripping too tightly to goals
  4. Losing sight of God’s role in your plans  

A Gentle Start to the New Year

I hope you’re having a gentle start to the new year’ has been the greeting I used at the start of the year. And I meant it. Perhaps, more so because it’s what I aimed for. That is, to slowly ease into pursuing personal and family goals, health, and education. Now, nearing mid-year, I wonder how many of you were able to do that? 

Truth is, when looking back, my start-up felt anything but gentle. It seemed more like racing down a foggy highway, ignoring the speed warnings. I rushed towards a destination I couldn’t see. Screeching and scraping behind me, trying to hold on for dear life, were my fast-unravelling goals.

What was I doing wrong?  What was driving this intense urgency? Because there’s no way I can keep up this pace all year!

I wonder how many others feel the same, and searching for an answer?  

How do you want to approach midlife?

Are you a midlifer seeking to pivot your life towards more mindful, intentional living? More than ever, you realize that time is more precious now. And you wish to spend this new chapter with deeper meaning and purpose. You have a renewed sense of your strengths, skills and limitations, spiritual gifts, and passions. You’ve thoroughly reflected on your most significant relationships, family dynamics, or career. Likewise, you know where and how you need to create necessary changes.

Glimpses of Your Ideal Life

In Let Your Life Speak, Parker Palmer states:

The Life I am living is not the same as the life that wants to live in me. In those moments, I sometimes catch a glimpse of my true life, a life hidden like a river beneath the ice. And in the spirit of the poet, I wonder: What am I meant to do? Who am I meant to be?”

parker j. palmer

In my midlife transition, I caught glimpses of that truer life as I slowly started chipping away the ice to see more clearly what lies beneath.

An Intentional Approach to the New Year

At the start of the year, I was armed with a fresh life purpose statement, a guiding theme word for the year. Also, ten goals that I captured in a colourful mind map. Every day I grabbed a cappuccino before zipping onto Highway 2022, juggling goals, health, family, and work.

As the year gained momentum, I paid more attention to some goals and completely lost my grip on others.  I watched in dismay as my carefully crafted goals started slipping out of my grasp.

Where did I go wrong?

In my eagerness to cultivate new growth and create the deeper life I desired; each day felt frantic. I navigated new terrain that seemed to constantly shift under my feet.  Most nights I collapsed in bed feeling like a failure and an inner voice taunting me with questions. What were you thinking? What did you get yourself into? 

In my search for answers, I remembered the advice of Polly B. Berends that “everything that happens to you is your teacher. The secret is to sit at the feet of your own life and be taught by it.”

I slowed down, pulled off the highway, and took a deep breath. It was time to pause the feverish pursuit and re-group. I answered eight questions to help unravel the lessons my life was teaching me.

Eight Questions to Unravel Why Goals Fail

  1. Did you get sucked into the hustle culture?

Hustle Culture: It’s a lifestyle where career has become such a priority in your life or the environment that your work in those other aspects of being human – such as hobbies, family-time, and self-care – often take a backseat.


When my career pivot took longer than anticipated, guilt and shame crept in because I wasn’t getting there quickly enough. That made me push harder to prove that even as I am ageing, I am still capable and valuable. I got sucked back into a familiar old game – hustling for self-worth. I piled more on my plate than I had the capacity to manage.

2. Did you step into the comparison trap?

After full-time parenting for two decades, I pursued a dusty dream to study psychology and develop my passion for writing. Doing so would help me shift to a career that better aligns with my passions and interests, strengths, and skills. I was driven to work harder and faster. Why? To catch up with everyone else who’s been doing it for much longer. This was new terrain and I needed to slow down to get to know the landscape.

3. Is your innate value based on external or internal factors?

As Christians, we are invited to help build the Kingdom of God. We do so by uncovering, developing, and harnessing our innate strengths and abilities. We tap into our spiritual gifts, passionate interests, skills, and resources to serve others. Focus on our area of influence, in the home, community, workplaces, or social groups. You risk burnout if you lack a clear understanding that your worth is not based on your service, achievements, or other external successes. Your value is not based in external validation, acceptance, and self-worth.

4. Did you underestimate the complexity of your goals?

There is a learning curve in any new endeavour. It often includes learning a new skill, gaining new knowledge, processing, applying, and practising. These steps take time. How have you allowed enough time to move through this learning curve?

5. Did you forget that life is a journey, not a destination?

I started this year with a feverish pursuit of new goals. Motivation flowed from a deeper understanding of my strengths and spiritual and creative gifts. I was eager to combine those elements to live purposefully. Particularly in midlife when time takes on a new urgency. But in the rush to see results, I forgot a pivotal truth. The pursuit of goals that aligns with a life of deeper personal meaning and fulfilment is a slow, organic process that cannot be rushed.

6. Have you bumped up against self-limiting beliefs?

Pursuing new goals and a career aligned with your strengths can feel both exciting, uncomfortable, and overwhelming. Whenever you step into unfamiliar learning territory be aware that it’s normal to feel afraid, anxious, and uncertain. Breathe through these moments, and gently push the boundaries to expand yourself to create the meaningful life you desire.

7. Are you gripping your goals too tight?

Professional slow coach for gentle rebels, Andy Mort, maintains that if we grip our goals too tight it’s usually because of a need for certainty and control. In his book, Get A Grip, Andy describes it as a paradox or self-fulfilling prophecy. That’s because our tight grip creates weakness and an inability to hold on to the thing we value.

‘… we attach our hope to a particular outcome, only to find that things didn’t go to plan. The more tightly we tether to the hope, the more jarring the rupture when we lose control’.


8. What is the Way Forward?

Now that I’ve listened to my life and uncovered the lessons I needed to learn, what is the way forward? How do you step out of the hustle culture, mitigate self-limiting beliefs, and loosen the tight grip on your goals? And how do you re-position God in the pursuit of your goals?

The answer depends on the way you understand and cultivates your passions.

The difference between harmonious passion and obsessive passion

Research into hedonic and eudaemonic well-being reveals that responding to one’s passions can be a double-edged sword. You can approach your goals from a place of harmonious passion that enhances motivation and subjective well-being. Or you can pursue goals with an obsessive passion, a rigid and inflexible pursuit of goals.

Harmonious Pursuit of Goals

A harmonious pursuit integrates the things you enjoy most into your daily life. You do so in a way that enhances rather than interferes with other aspects of life. Also, engage and disengage from your passions to tend to other life areas in flexible ways.

Obsessive Pursuit of Goals

An obsessive pursuit of passion means you spend excessive time on activities to boost the ego. You derive self-esteem and identity from it. It overpowers other life aspects and can lead to negative outcomes.

A Happy Medium Between Harmonious and Obsessive Goal Pursuit

A way to regain a better grip on your goals is to let go, says Andy. You shake out your muscles and then pick up your goals again in a non-attached way. Also, you practice being more present in everyday moments. In addition, you practice being okay with external uncertainty. How? By cultivating inner peace. Finally, you bear in mind that regardless of what the future holds, you can cope.

Life is a journey, not a destination

Slow down and adjust to your natural pace and learning style. Hendricks (The Big Leap) reminds us that it is futile to strive to reach lofty goals under these three conditions:

  1. It destroys your relationships,
  2. It decimates your sense of inner self,
  3. You lose the connection to your inner wellspring of creativity.

Hendricks maintains that it requires a gentle harmony between love, building an income, and creativity. Allow yourself to grow at your natural pace, not the pace dictated by a hustle culture, or comparison traps that cause self-doubt that deters your progress.

Break up bigger goals

Break up bigger goals into smaller, manageable steps that allow you to focus on less, and celebrate the smaller victories along the way. This will increase your confidence and shift you closer to fulfilling your full potential.

Let go of the need for certainty and control

Release self-doubt, insecurity, and fear. Instead, shift your focus and energy to uncovering your innate strengths, spiritual gifts, and creativity. Then apply these to your deepest life interests.

Shift your thoughts and inner dialogue

As an introvert, I’m always thinking about the present and future, straining anxiously to see what lies ahead. I struggle with ambiguity which can easily lead to overthinking- and planning, micromanaging, and rushing toward an outcome.

Practice self-care

A way to loosen your tight grip on your goals is to take regular time to pause, rest, exercise, meditate and spend time with family and friends as ways to refuel. Doing so can help cultivate a healthy, unrushed work-life balance.

Consider God’s role in the pursuit of your goals

Philippians 4:13 (AMP) states: I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfil His purpose- I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace].

Check if your goals align with God’s purpose for you.

Take another look at the goals to check if they align with what God has called you to do. If you’re still unsure about what a purposeful life means for you, take note of your natural talents or unique abilities, persistent passions, and life interests. They offer valuable clues to uncover your God-given purpose. Then, develop and refine your gifts and resources through ongoing training and practice.

It Takes a Village

You don’t have to pursue your goals in your own strength alone, but instead, daily allow God’s strength and power to supplement your limitations. Particularly, because of the work you feel called to, God has prepared in advance for you to do because, in Him, you live and move and have your being. Spend time basking in the presence of the Lord, through daily devotionals, bible study, meditation, and prayer to infuse your inner landscape with wisdom, God-given strength, confidence, and peace.

For external support, seek out a trustworthy friend who is able to celebrate and support your growth in an unbiased and selfless way. Or, seek support from professional individuals or like-minded groups who can encourage and motivate you on your journey to fulfil your unique potential.

Conclusion: Bringing it all together

An authentic life, Andy Mort maintains, starts from within. Any sense of purpose is like a seed that slowly grows from the inside out. Becoming everything that you desire and were destined to do in this world, is not a race to the finish line. Deep and meaningful becoming requires patience, curiosity, and even room for failure.  

As much as I gained new insights during the transition to midlife, there is still much left to learn and integrate. Such learning can happen through education and training. And by allowing life to unfold naturally through organic experiences, relationships, and conversations.

Life is a slow, winding journey that cannot be rushed, but rather an adventure to savour. Not with feverish urgency, but with patience and a curious exploration to embrace and gently examine and process everything that will naturally unfold along the way.

As always, travel gently on your midlife journey.

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