“It’s not how you start, but how you finish that counts.” I can’t remember when I first heard that saying, but it is one that has given me great cause to stop and ponder lately. I’m getting older. Not “really old”, but hey, I’m not thirty anymore either! I am at a certain age, where I can’t help but wonder how I will “finish”. What will people remember most about me, my life? Will I ever make it big? Become famous? Do something incredible for mankind? Is it too late? What about all of those stupid, impulsive, ill thought out acts of my youth? Will they finally truly catch up with me in the harshest of ways? Have I simply wasted too much time for a great finish?

Think of all the great (and not so great) finishes that you remember in your own life. That incredible movie you just saw, your last job or relationship, the New Year’s resolution that you kept or didn’t keep. How easy it is to forget the beginning, but we always remember the finishes! So your life, the story that you write on pages that we call days, how do you want it to finish? Assuming your human and have a pulse, your probably not keen on this one finishing. This is one ending that none of us looks forward to. But how often do we talk about people we know, like their story is already finished? “He (being your 30-something best friend) never went to college.” Assuming he’s still alive, why do we make such a final statement? “She’s a stay at home mom.” Spoken as if “she” has never, and will never, do anything else again. As we desperately seek to bring order to our lives, we hurry to define them in whatever way we can, often quick to characterize and label ourselves and each other in this human race based on a finish line that has not yet been reached.

So with spring in the air, and new beginnings all around, I would encourage you to think about the finish lines in your life. What ones have already been crossed? What ones would you like to cross? Which ones are real, and which ones exist only in your imagination? What ones would you like to change? You see, the thing about finishes, is that they always come just before a new beginning, and those things scare us to death! New homes, new jobs, new careers, new relationships, are all exciting ideas, but they are also unknown. What if we end up hating them? What if they don’t meet our expectations, they let us down, or just don’t turn out to be the experience, place or person that we thought they would be? Worse yet, what if we make a wrong choice, or just plain fail? Life may be less than idyllic, but you’ve got this whole “life is hard and I’m doing okay” thing figured out, right? You know how to work this game. You know where the big pitfalls are, and for the most part how to steer clear of them. You probably have a pretty good idea of how to live comfortably and safe. But how much of our lives do we spend avoiding grief, pain disappointment and discomfort rather than reaching for bliss? And why? At what cost?

What if we miss the brass ring? What if we fail terribly? Better safe than sorry, right? But is it really? Looking back, the only things I’m sorry for in my life are the times I’ve played it safe. I’m sorry for all of the kind words I could have spoken and didn’t for fear of being embarrassed. I’m sorry for all the tears I haven’t shed for fear of being seen as weak. I’m sorry for all of the dancing I haven’t done, and songs I haven’t sung at the risk of looking silly or foolish. I’m sorry for every time I did not speak my truth in order to preserve a false peace, while robbing myself and others of the opportunity to grow. In short, the safest places in my life are the sorriest.

So the real question here is when did we stop trusting and believing in ourselves and our right to express our own individuality? When did we start to worry so much about being capable of taking the next step, and what other people would think? More or less, we all came into this world in the same manner, with the same set of abilities; that is to say, very few right off the bat. Every single thing that you do today, that you did yesterday, was new at some point. It’s something you learned. It’s probably something that you were terrible at initially. Remember that whole learning to feed yourself and read and write thing? Not pretty from the get go, but you kept at it, and I’m betting that you’re pretty good at it now.

As infants and toddlers, we never question our ability to take the next step, we simply start walking. And most babies are pretty keen on the whole thing once they get the hang of it. Everything is new, and we are mobile! We watch grown-ups do things and can hardly wait to get at it. It never occurs to us that we won’t like it, or that we can’t. We just do. So at what point does that anything goes, unstoppable attitude give way to fear and self doubt? After too many hard falls? If that was the case, most of us would never have learned how to walk. So, at what point does the perceived pain of failure out way our desire to achieve our goal? When exactly is it that we say, “Enough. I can’t. It’s never worked in the past. It probably won’t work this time. What if I don’t like it?” or any of the hundred or so other lies and worries that we find to nag ourselves with?

I was in the change room at the gym today and I overheard a few women discussing the horrors of life. Several specific events were the topic of conversation. Interestingly enough, none of them had happened! They talked about an attempted, but failed crime. They talked about other situations where you could be in danger. (not even remotely related to the first almost incident) After much gasping and “ah-ing” one of the women summed it all up with “You’re just not safe anywhere anymore!” And nothing had actually happened to any of them!

Now I’m not suggesting that you go racing through life with a flagrant disregard for your own health and well being, or anyone else’s for that matter, but maybe, just maybe it’s time for us all to return to faith over fear. I’m not talking about faith in the church going sense, or faith in the goodness of mankind so go ahead and leave your house unlocked. I’m talking about faith in yourself. The same kind of faith that you had as a kid. The faith that told you that you were okay, and to get up and try again and to simply keep going. Our faith gets slowly eroded. This happens in different ways and at different rates for all of us. Failure is not falling down, it’s staying down and ya gotta ask yourself, is this how you want to finish?

Our lives are made up of a series of small finishes, each one contributing to the whole. Nobody remembers the kid who was born to a mother with syphilis, “failed” as a child prodigy, was repeatedly beaten by an abusive alcoholic father and suffered ongoing lead poisoning, but we all remember Ludwig van Beethoven. Nobody remembers the quiet, shy art student who painted lonely pictures, and described himself simply as “misunderstood” but we all remember Adolph Hitler.

As human beings we seem to always be in a perpetual state of hope and fear; always waiting for the next best thing, but dreading what may happen in the meantime. We hope that true love, fame and fortune are around the next corner, or at least a hot date and a small lottery winning. Yet at the same time we allow fears and doubts to creep in about how we are going to pay the mounting bills without the windfall and at what point is our new amour is going to go from fascinating to freak. We hope for the best, but act as if we expect to receive the worst, and then wonder why our lives haven’t turned out exactly the way we wanted them to be.

So again I ask you, how do you want your story to finish? How about his month, this week, or even just this day? We may not get much control over the big finish, but we can certainly seize the small ones! And really it is their sum that determines the whole. So in the freshness and beauty and newness of spring, why not find that inner kid, the one who knew unequivocally that anything was possible, and take him or her out to play. This child-like enthusiasm is the daring, the adventurer and the artist in each of us. It is also our wisdom.

There was a time in each of our lives, when everything we attempted culminated in success. Maybe not on the first try, or not even on the second, but eventually success! This was a time when the stories that were told about us, and that we told about ourselves all rang of promise and pride. A lot has happened since then, but mercifully, nature is very forgiving of our mistakes. We are given endless opportunities to start again; as dark and scary as they may seem. We don’t get to choose when or how we start this life, but we do get to choose when and how we do the living! Remember, all the failures aside, “It’s not how you start, but how you finish that counts.”
- Hunter Phoenix

Author's Bio: 

Hunter Phoenix is a Certified Professional Coach who specializing in working with dynamic entrepreneurs to build their businesses and create more balance in their lives. With over 15 years experience, Hunter received the majority of her coaching training at The Ford Institute for Integrative Coaching at JFK University in Berkeley, California.

For more information visit