- Aggravating games of telephone tag play daily across the world. They leave a trail of unresolved messages in their wake.
- ‘New improved’ phone features (like call waiting) let you abandon one person in mid sentence to attend to a new call. You place the second caller on hold while you switch back to the first conversation. Two loose ends for the price of one!
- Endless ‘to-do’ lists trigger the guilt gene. That uneasy feeling of ‘never quite being done’ nags at day’s end. It trails you home, lingers through the evening, and falls in behind you as you head back into the world in the morning.
Loose ends are a prominent feature of life at the turn of the century. The result? That relentless feeling of being behind, unsettled, unresolved, incomplete, in progress, underway. Always on the run…never quite arrived.
The drive to complete is strong. E. T. Hall observed we are “…driven to achieve what psychologists call ‘closure’. Uncompleted tasks will not let go. They are somehow immoral, wasteful, and threatening to the integrity of our social fabric. A road that ends abruptly in the middle of nowhere signals that something really went wrong.”
This need for closure is not a new phenomenon. In 1928, the German psychologist, Zeigarnik, found that incomplete tasks were remembered twice as often as completed ones. They lingered in memory, often tormenting the subject. When allowed to finish tasks, people reported great relief, and the memory difference disappeared.
This is a time when it is virtually impossible to be ‘finished’ everything. Time, money, and energy are limited. The sheer volume of tasks awaiting our attention adds frustration. Aspirations run high. The challenge is to make peace with the experience of the imperfect and the presence of the undone.
Value small movements in the right direction. Understand that ‘incomplete’ does not equal failure. Loose ends are a normal condition of life and to be expected as part of any work in progress. It’s more helpful to focus on making progress rather than striving for perfection.
- How might you find the satisfaction, grace and beauty in the midst of a life with loose ends?
- How could you avoid creating more loose ends for others?
© Patricia Katz MCE CHRP of Optimus Consulting is a speaker, author and consultant who helps individuals and organizations restore the rhythm of renewal to work and life. To bring Patricia’s expertise to your organization, contact her at www.patkatz.com or toll free at (877) 728-5289.