Starting a task and then not finishing it, is not something that a lot of people like doing. Personally, I’m one of those people who have to finish what they start, but I know people who start a lot of things only to leave them unfinished. I became curious on why some people have to finish things and why others leave things unfinished.
The Zeigarnic effect
In 1927, a study was carried out by Lithuanian researcher and psychologist, Bluma Zeigarnic, participants were given a set of tasks to complete. Some of the participants were interrupted while others were left uninterrupted, then they were tested on how well they recalled the details of each task. Those who were interrupted had a much better recall rate than those who were not interrupted. Therefore, according to the Zeigarnic effect. you’re more likely to remember things that you were interrupted while doing.
For our brain, things that we’re interrupted while doing are things that are incomplete, their results are vague and ambiguous; to clear this vagueness we have to finish the task to see it’s clear and solid result. Interruptions act like a sort of cliffhanger for the brain, your brain just wants to know what happens next, it keeps thinking about the details and processing what’s been done in order to know what’s going to happen next.
There are those, however, who always start things but leave them unfinished. Studies have shown that those who have a strong desire to finish a task; also have a strong achievement motivation and for their brains, finishing a task acts as a reward. So you might be wondering do chronic non-finishers just have no sense of achievement motivation? No, they probably do have it but their problem doesn’t lie in that, it lies in something else.
Chronic non-finishers start many tasks and leave them unfinished as a sort of defense-mechanism. As described in the Zeigarnic effect, when chronic non-finishers take on many tasks, their brains get cluttered by information and details of the tasks. This clutter distracts them from bigger life issues that are going on.
So, what should chronic non-finishers do? I think a great way of tackling it would be taking Dr. Will Joel Friedman’s advice:
Notice what is incomplete, unfinished or unresolved in your life, and write it down to make it more concrete and real for you. You might even assign an emotional or energy weight to each item in terms of pounds. It is amazing how many hundreds of extra emotional pounds we are carrying around all the time! How wonderfully liberating it is to consciously choose to lose this excess baggage, and travel lighter. – Dr. Will Joel Friedman
Written by: Osama Waheib