Initiative & Finitiative

You need both Initiative and Finitiative in order to be successful – Shyam Sami

What a cool concept! Or at least what a cool way to put it!

I’ve often called myself a “rabbit”—quick out of the gate, boundless starting energy, but also quick to tire and fizzle out.

Right around the 80% mark, I lose steam—week 12 of a 15 week semester, stripping and varnishing the floor but not having the reserve to then nail the baseboards back in, needlework projects that are fully embroidered but not finished or edged.

You get the drift. I don’t have time to watch the paint dry. I’m on to the next thing. The next thing feeds me. But finishing sucks me dry.

Also, there’s no gain to be had. I am a process-driven person, not a goal-driven person. The joy is in the doing, not in the having-done. Well, at least for the most part. And certainly when the process is something I enjoy.

In fact, that’s something else. If the process does not engage me, I don’t even start. What’s the point? The best part of any endeavor—the process—does not exist, so why bother.

Then there’s the fact of starting itself. I get a rush from starting. The promise of something new. It’s explosive. Compulsive. I must do this NOW, start NOW. There’s no mulling and pondering and planning. NOW is where it’s at. The Rush.


The world is divided into starters and finishers. I have yet to meet someone who does both well.

I am a certified starter. My husband, an accomplished finisher.

You wont find him buzzing around on a Saturday morning, trying to pull together all the pieces needed to start a project.

That would be me. But once I’ve started in on something, he often wanders in and gives me a hand.

In fact, I’ll let you in on a little secret. When I want to get something done—a door knob fixed, the garage organized—I don’t ask (anymore), I just start.

I pull all the crap off the shelves, I bang about with tools and shelving paper and such (anything that makes enough noise to pique his interest), and pretty soon, he comes in and offers to help (my husband loves to “help”). So I let him.

And about 30 minutes into our partnership (when he is in full gear), I leave.

I just quietly step back into the house and shut the door behind me.

I don’t announce my departure. I don’t make a big deal of it. I just leave him to it.

And he finishes. The whole damn thing.

Now I know what you’re thinking. Poor sod, he’s doing all the work. This is true. He does do all the “work”—the work of hammering and lifting and packing and cleaning and rearranging.

But I do the “work” of starting.

I’m the one that brings the energy it takes to choose a project, organize the process, make sure we have all the tools/supplies that are needed . . . I’m the one that decides, Today is the day! I bring the ignition, the explosion, and I’m the one that follows through.

Upto a point.

Invariably, though, at one time or another, I run out of steam. The starting energy dissipates, and kinetic energy–the energy generated from the doing itself–takes over. This tides me over for a while, but before too long, this, too, runs out. It’s as if the explosive energy is unsustainable, one needs a slow burn to continue the motion.

Enter my husband.

He may not have the white-hot spark to get things going, but he sure can take a project and wrap up it up tight, loose ends and all. One has to admire that.

So Yup. Initiative and Finitiative. A match made in heaven.


But how does the Initiator become the Finitiator?

Good question. I don’t think the Initiator ever becomes the Finitiator, but there are some hacks that s/he can adopt, at least until that match-made-in-heaven comes riding in on a steed.

  1. Keep the goal small. Most of us can clean out a drawer or one shelf of a closet before we run out of steam, but make us purge an entire garage, and we are set up to fail. So think SMALL.
  2. Orchestrate many “beginnings.” This is the kissing cousin to “start small.” Initiators like to begin projects. We like that feeling of solving problems, tackling that bull to the ground, so set it up such that you have to start many times over. The classic example of this would be the Pomodoro Method many writers use to get their requisite words for the day done. They set the timer for 25 minutes, and write continuously for the duration, after which they get up and take a break before setting the timer, again, for another 25-minute burst of writing. The break need only be five minutes, but the act of breaking and, better yet, walking away from the page, is not only relaxing, it’s also rejuvenating, an opportunity to begin again. So arrange your projects to have many “fresh starts.”
  3. Offer yourself carrots and sticks–small rewards for having completed a task and small punishments for having procrastinated. The carrots work better for me since I am better able to defer gratification than to tolerate punishment. It’s easier for me to say, if I just get through this to the end, I can have . . . . than it is for me to threaten myself with some petty sanction. The promise of heaven, so much sweeter than the threat of hell!And when all else fails, just start. Finishing is over-rated anyway.



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Categories: Reflections

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4 replies

  1. #2 is the only one that works for me, except I didn’t know it had a name. I tell Siri to set timer for 30 mins and I write, break 5 mins which turns to 15 if I need to go to the kitchen.

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