Years ago, when I first started my coaching and training business, I would take workshop participants through an exercise where they would identify their values. It was not a scientifically proven methodology, but more one to generate awareness. The question to be answered was “What did you think your values are and how are you incorporating them into your life?” I figured that to be credible, it would be a good idea for me to do the exercise myself. Most of it was as I expected, with family and friends quite high on the list. But there was another word that was there, probably in the top three: Creativity. It was not something I really thought much about. In fact, I most likely considered it a “nice to have”, not a necessity. However, when completing the exercise I realized that the job I had recently left, where I had been bored and frustrated and unhappy, offered me no creative outlets. Now, at the point in time I taking this, I was starting my new entrepreneurial journey and was FULL of creativity. And I felt more alive and joyful and complete than I had felt in years. It was a wonderful moment of awareness.
Fast forward a number of years. I find myself in a job I like, but in a very restrictive environment. How could this be, I wonder, as I DO like what I am doing? What I had failed to take into account, was just how important TO ME creativity in a work environment really is. Now that I am again finding myself freed of those constructs, I have taken off creatively, and have not been this happy in years. I have joined the cast of a community theatre in a wonderful production of The Sound Of Music (I’m a nun J), and am reveling in the creative juices all around me. I also just finished my first novel! Well, the first draft. For those of you familiar with my writing, I do these monthly pieces that are a few hundred words, not the over 100K words a novel demands. It was quite a process and I’m just thrilled to have completed this part of it.
Which leads me to my word of the year: Completion. I started doing a Word of the Year a few years ago at the encouragement of others. It was to serve as a touchstone and focus for what I wanted to achieve and manifest that year. I thought it was a cute exercise and went along with the crowd. And I have been doing it ever since, because I have discovered the power in that word and the intention in using it. Last year my word was Forward, and it was exactly what I needed to keep reminding me to stop looking back, stop comparing, and start looking ahead to possibilities. It worked. This year, as I was trying to think about what to choose, my daughter was asking me about different TV series and if I had seen this episode or that. To just about every question, the answer was “No, I didn’t finish it yet”. She stopped what she was doing, looked at me, and said “This is a pattern, Mother.” She didn’t need to explain what she meant – I knew. I am VERY good at starting new things, from TV series to books to jobs to projects…but not always so good at completing them. I can’t tell you how many times I did Weight Watchers, getting within 2 pounds of my goal, and then quitting. It really was a pattern.
So, Completion. This is the year I finish things. There is a theory called Incomplete Cycles of Action: things that are not completed stay with you, taking up space in your head and in your energy. According to an article entitled “The Psychology of Unfinished Tasks” by Dr. Hannah Rose,
In 1927, psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik reported that individuals tend to have a better memory for tasks that are interrupted or incomplete, than they do for tasks that have been completed.
Zeigarnik and her supervisor, professor Kurt Lewin, observed that their restaurant waiter had an exceptional memory for what everyone at the table had ordered, despite never writing anything down.
However, it later emerged that he only retained the information until each table left. After this, he would have little or no memory of the customers, which table they had been sat at, or what they had ordered.
Following this encounter, Zeigarnik carried out a series of experiments on the relationship between tasks and memory. She concluded that it’s possible for the human memory to distinguish between tasks that have been completed and those that are still left to complete, and that we tend to remember unfinished tasks better. This phenomenon became known as the Zeigarnik effect.
Imagine how much more time and energy you’d have if your to do list was complete! It’s something I decided to try in 2024. I started by going around my house and noting (2 pages worth) the tasks that I had started and had yet to complete. And then, lest that be totally overwhelming, I assigned due dates over the year and literally put time to do the task on my calendar. I am happy to say I have completed one page full already! And, not to mention that book! And, as expected, I feel I have more energy to complete the others.
So, if you are looking for me in about May/June timeframe, I’ll probably be in front of my TV, finishing up a bunch of series.
Choose your words with intention – they are really powerful!