I’ve started so I’ll finish

You’d see this all the time on Mastermind. The time runs out while the host is in the middle of asking a question. Magnes Magnusson would pause and say, “I’ve started so I’ll finish.” Then he’d finish asking the question. 

This is good for the contestant. He gets a chance to answer one more question. To get a few more points. It’s good for the audience too. They get some measure of closure on the question they only heard a snippet of.

While those five words may be good for a game show, they’re not so good for our life. Consider a few scenarios:

– I’ve just completed the first year of university.
– I’m three years into a new career.
– I’m leaving for a big conference tomorrow.
– I’m watching a film.
– I’m reading a book.
– I’ve just gained my tenth client for a new business.

Those five words—”I’ve started so I’ll finish”—could easily apply to every one of the scenarios above. I’ve completed the first year of university. I may as well do the last two. I’ve paid for the ticket, the travel and the accommodation for this conference. I should go. I’m halfway through this book. I might as well finish it. People will pay me to do this. I should keep doing it.

Those five words could apply. But should they?

Just because you’ve started, it doesn’t mean you have to finish. This is related to the sunk cost fallacy, which occurs when past decisions and actions influence current scenarios.

An example: say you’ve been with your partner for five years. Committing the sunk cost fallacy is using the fact that you’ve been with them for five years as a significant input in deciding whether you continue to stay with them. Really, it shouldn’t matter one bit. We should be asking ourselves, “Would I choose to go out with this person again today if we had no history?” If the answer is no, then get out of the relationship.

More generically, when we consider how we spend our time and money, we should be asking ourself this: “If I could choose to reallocate all of my resources, would I distribute in the same way as I am now?” If the answer is no, forget about finishing what you’ve started. 

This isn’t some story. You don’t have to tie up all the loose ends. Most people’s lives are trails of unfulfilled obligations, abandoned commitments and un-implemented ideas. Yours will be too. And that’s fine. Quit. Change your trajectory. Start, but don’t finish.

Don’t be embarrassed about it. Quitting in ninety-nine percent of cases is a strategic, not a moral choice. Quitting only signifies weakness if you quit because something is hard, unfamiliar or unpopular. Quitting because you’ve realised there’s a better way to deploy your time and money isn’t weakness. It’s strength.

Just because you’ve started doesn’t mean you have to finish. The only people who will tell you that are the ones lacking the courage to call an audible on their own lives. People whose minds are too small to admit and adjust to the mistakes they’ve made on their own journey.

Don’t continue to walk the same path only because you’ve already taken a few steps. If there’s a better way, explore it. Forget about finishing. It doesn’t matter. Choosing the best option at every junction in your life does.