An early morning a few months ago I found myself standing in front of my kitchen sink that was once again full of dirty dishes. I was talking to my sister on the phone just staring at the task in front of me.
(I’m not sure who breaks into my house every single night just to dirty every single one of my dishes—leaving me to clean them in the morning—but if I ever catch the dirtying culprit, I’m popping him right in the nose. And I have raging pregnancy hormones right now, so it would be epic.)
My one year old hadn’t slept for oh, her entire life. Which meant this momma hadn’t slept for her entire life. Every night for the past 15 months had been broken up into sleepless segments. And then the entire previous week, 3am had become our I’m-Up-For-The-Day.
I wasn’t just sleepy, I was e x h a u s t e d—physically, emotionally and mentally depleted. I think most mommas know the place I’m talking about. And boy oh boy, I was in that place.
And on this particular morning as I stood in front of that sink of dirty dishes, I became totally overwhelmed. That sink was just the beginning of what I needed to get done. I don’t remember exactly what our topic of conversation was, but it wasn’t a serious one. However my response to whatever she said just burst out of me—and with a shaky voice attempting to hold back tears, I said,
“I don’t finish anything. I just quit…everything…all the time. I start and then…I quit.”
My vision began to blur with tears. And then I began to go down the list of all my failures and all of the projects I had started but for one reason or another, had quit.
Nothing like an early morning, lighthearted conversation with your sister, right?
My physical and mental exhaustion had stripped away my excuses (along with my good attitude and normally happy demeanor). And that rawness had suddenly and violently stirred up this regret and frustration about things I had quit.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve battled procrastination and quitting—always wishing to trade in those habits for ones of persevering and finishing. I’ve written about my journey of recovery before. This struggle isn’t a new thing for me.
Big life events…small every day tasks…friendships…ministries…workout programs. You name it, I’ve quit each of them at least once.
I would feel alone in it all. I’d watch other women who seemed to have it all together. Every detail in their lives seemed to be in place. Every project completed. Always on time. Always floating, not walking. And I would wonder why I couldn’t seem to get my act together since others seemed to do it so effortlessly.
And honestly, I still feel that way sometimes. Why the heck can’t I just figure this life thing out? Not just with keeping up with dishes (which would be a beautiful miracle), but with…projects…dreams…life.
Shortly after my dish-hating/I’m-such-a-quitter meltdown in my kitchen, I heard about a book called 5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit and got an early copy of it. I love the author and the title practically screamed my name so I was eager to dive in. The book follows the life of Ruth from the Bible and pulls out truth and examples of how her steady faithfulness changed countless generations.
This book has been such an unexpected game changer for me. You know those times where you don’t need advice, or a coach or a teacher or a drill sergeant…you just need a friend? Yeah, this book has become my friend. The kind of friend that says, “Yep. I’ve been there. I’m still there. I’ve not figured it all out, but I’m on my way. Let me share with you.”
There have only been a handful of times in my life where I can look back and honestly say I feel pleased with how I stuck to something. I’m talking about the kind of somethings that took a lot of time, a lot of energy and…gulp…a lot of persistence (for like, more than a week).
But what if my definition of success simply meant staying consistent?
This book is jam-packed full of goodness. But 3 of the things that I walked away with after reading 5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit:
1.) I am not alone in my struggles
2.) There is hope to change my quitter-habits and replace them with finisher-habits
3.) If I can’t give 100% that day, give 51%
That last one was a big aha moment for me. And looking back at the times I actually did finish well with large tasks, that’s sort of what I did. Even if I couldn’t hit some amazing goal that day, I did just one thing that kept me moving towards my main goal. And sure enough, enough days of doing one little thing led me to finishing that big thing.
In her book, Nicki writes about the power of 51%:
If success can be redefined as “not quitting,” it’s this idea that if we can just stay 1 percent above 50, we are heading in the right direction.
So, while you determine in your spirit you can’t handle Jillian Michaels’ bossy commands today, you choose the 51 percent route and go for a quiet walk. No, you didn’t give everything you had, but you gave it 51 percent, and so that’s a step in the right direction.
I’m really excited about the tools I learned from 5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit. Particularly learning how to identify why I quit and then figuring out how to reform habits that have become obstacles. (I highly recommend snagging a copy if you too struggle with finishing things. There are too many gems in it to talk about in a short post, but it really is worth the read.)
Some days, I just don’t have the energy or time I wish I could fully devote. But instead of an all or nothing mindset on those days, I’m excited now view consistency as success. Eventually all that movement forward, despite the speed, will lead me to that finish. And I’m already seeing the benefits of those newly formed habits! How awesome!
So to all my fellow recovering procrastinators and quitters, we can do it! One habit, one step, one word, one consistent forward movement at a time.