Remember rug hooking? I’m probably showing my age but I used to spend weeks at a time pulling colorful little pieces of yarn through a template to form an image of puppies or flowers or butterflies. We didn’t have video games or Instagram to capture our attention, so we made crafts. Lots of crafts.
And I loved starting new crafts! The problem was…I didn’t always finish what I started. I remember my mother telling me I was not going to get another rug hook set, or sand art kit, or needle point set, or watercolor canvas until I finished the ones I had already started.
It was good advice at the time –I needed to learn the discipline of following through on a project. I needed to know what it meant to make a commitment. I needed to experience the sense of accomplishment that comes with completing a job.
But I’ve since discovered there are times when it’s ok to stop in the middle of a project. That you don’t always have to finish what you start. In fact, sometimes it’s better to stop where you are than to waste another second continuing what you are doing.
Don’t be a Quitter
Let’s take a business goal for example. Let’s say you have a dream of holding a workshop. You have visions of an inspirational and educational event that will touch hearts and change lives! You do the research…you create the material…you make all the arrangements…you promote the event…and when it’s a week away from the big day, you’ve only got one person registered. Do you finish what you start? Well, maybe. There are a lot of factors to consider. But I wouldn’t rule out canceling the event. Sometimes the right thing to do is cut our losses, learn from our mistakes and try something else.
Maybe this situation applies to more than a single workshop. What if it applies to your entire business or ministry? What if all logical signs point toward letting go and starting over? Despite what we know to be the best decision, we’re afraid to let go because we’ve accepted the lie that tells us we are failures. We would rather follow through on something for the sake of finishing it than wear the self-proclaimed label of a quitter.
I think we can easily get hung up on the “rules” we learned as children. We forget that they are not black and white. That there is room for interpretation in some of these lessons. That quitting isn’t bad in and of itself. It depends on why we are quitting. Are we giving up because it’s just too hard or we’re bored? Or have we been called in a different direction – experienced a shift in priorities? Personally, I believe the growth happens all along the journey; I don’t think we always have to reach the finish line to learn our lessons.
Look Both Ways
My mother also taught me to look both ways before I cross a street. And I’ve spanked a few bottoms in my household for ignoring this important safety rule. But I think it’s another mandate that we mistakenly apply to other areas of our lives.
Maybe it’s just me, but I tend to be overly cautious even when it’s not necessary. I want to “look both ways” and know EXACTLY what I’m getting myself into. I have a certain comfort level when I check and double check each and every possibility. I think that’s a great trait for a mother to have. And an airline pilot or a nuclear engineer. But it’s not always the best mindset for a creative entrepreneur.
The only way to succeed in business is to get started. And sometimes we hold ourselves back from getting started because we’re too busy looking both ways. We want to know that it’s safe. That it will work. But that’s the paradox – there is no guarantee when you run your own business. So it makes no sense to keep looking after a certain point.
Follow Your Heart
Here’s another piece of advice that I think is often misguided: follow your heart. You’ve probably heard plenty of business “gurus” telling you to follow your heart and turn your passion into profit. That’s lovely advice – as long as your heart is filled with the Truth. If the Holy Spirit has whispered in your heart and you’re following the path God set before you…then yes, follow your heart!
But our hearts are not always pure. They can be just as confused as our minds at times. My heart longs for many things that are likely not part of God’s plan for me. How many women do you know who want nothing more than to have a baby – but it doesn’t appear to be God’s plan for them right now?
Our heart’s desire is not always the best compass. Even if we know that our heart is filled with good intentions and a desire to serve. So we have to be careful about following our heart. Or our gut. Or our instincts. We have to remember to run our dreams and goals through the filter of God’s Word before we follow any direction at all. I think this is the hardest lesson for me. It’s the one I wrestle with the most. Because I want to believe that my heart’s desire is in alignment with God’s plan. I don’t want to accept when He has a different direction for me. But I’m slowly learning to lean more on him and less on my heart.
What about you? How do you feel about finishing what you start, looking both ways and following your heart? Good advice or bad? I’d love to hear your experiences!