Sometimes projects are fun, especially short ones. Everything goes smoothly and wrapping them up is a breeze. With short projects everything is new and exciting. We can easily see the finish line and with a little effort we can sail over it easily.
Longer projects are a different story. Long projects require much more of us emotionally. They require a level of fortitude and self-discipline that short-term projects do not. This is because with a longer term project at some point it’s not going to be fun anymore. The newness of the project is going to wear off and it’s becomes work. This is when you are tested. This is when most people give up their dreams and plans and convince themselves that they never really wanted them in the first place.
What they don’t know is that it gets better on the other side. After some difficult parts it will often start to go smoothly again. You begin to see the finish line and even get a second wind. You start to reap some of the benefits of your hard work. And of course, crossing the finish line is the ultimate reward.
So, when you hit a wall, some serious soul-searching is in order. It’s time to ask “Am I ready to quit because I’m tired or because the project doesn’t really suit me, my values and the life style I desire?” There is nothing wrong with not finishing a project. This is your life and you don’t have to answer to anyone. But, if the answer is “I’m tired and this isn’t any fun anymore,” it might be time to take a step back.
Part of the American work ethic is to never give up. However, nobody talks about the importance of backing off temporarily when the going gets tough… when we get tired and burned out. Sometimes we need to take a full or mini-vacation, a retreat or a getaway.
Working on a long project is not like working a short project in the same way that running a marathon is not like running a sprint. It’s not enough to never give up. We must pace ourselves as well. We must remind ourselves that we’re in it for the long haul and that it’s okay to back off and replenish our reserves, knowing that we will come back afterward reinvigorated, and ready to continue the marathon.
It’s critical to get past the not-so-fun part of any project. Giving birth is the ultimate example of a long-term project that is often not so fun, but is ultimately rewarding. If a woman is lucky enough to have a midwife with her throughout the many long hours, the midwife will not only guide her through the process, but will tell the mother-to-be when to slow down and take a break so that she has the strength to make it through the whole process.
Unfortunately, our offices and cubicle do not come equipped with a midwife to assist us in manifesting our projects. When the going gets tough we must tell ourselves when to push on and when it is time to take a break. We must encourage ourselves and let ourselves know when it is okay to back off and rest. We must be our own midwife.