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The other day, I got to the bottom of a tube of toothpaste. I patiently and persistently squeezed out the very last bit I could possibly get out, briefly considering getting a pair of scissors so that I could cut it open and ensure that every single bit of that toothpaste was all used up. And then I remembered how little toothpaste actually costs in the grand scheme of things. I threw the tube away, feeling a sense of satisfaction that only comes with completion. There are probably some of you who are wondering why I bothered using that tube of toothpaste for so long. The answer to that question is that you are either an opener or a finisher. There are those that love opening something new, and there are those who are most satisfied by finishing something. Knowing your tendency for either opening or finishing can help you understand what habits you need to work against and what parts of yourself you can embrace. I’m clearly a finisher.

It was only recently that I realized that I was a finisher. Before, I hadn’t really noticed the difference between those who love to start and those who love to finish. Gretchen Rubin writes about it in her book Better than Before, asking the question as a way to know yourself better and therefore do a better job designing habits for yourself. At first I thought that I was an opener. I have plenty of projects that I’ve started, but very few that I’ve finished. But the more I thought about it and observed my own actions, the more I realized that I’m more of a finisher.

6 Signs That You Might Be a Finisher

  1. You continue to read books you don’t enjoy
  2. When Pinterest first came around, you tried to get to the bottom of the page
  3. You’re reluctant to start if you can’t envision how it will end
  4. You’ve considered doing crazy things like cutting open a tube of toothpaste just to ensure you’re finishing something
  5. You continue to do a project that you’re no longer enjoying just for the sake of completing it
  6. You have a passion for sticker charts–or things like them 

There are pros and cons to being a finisher. If we were all openers and not finishers, we would have a whole world of half-finished projects lying around causing problems. The problem with being a finisher is that sometimes it’s hard to know when to stop something that’s just not working anymore and to get a fresh start. Taken to the extreme, you could end up finishing in a career that you hate, a hobby you don’t enjoy, and in a plan that’s not working for you.

However, just because you’re a finisher, it doesn’t mean that you’ll complete everything. It just means you might get more satisfaction out of completing something than starting something. I have several different opened and partially used shampoo bottles, but the thrill I got when opening them doesn’t compare to the thrill I’ll get from finishing them out. I love starting a new novel, but the satisfaction of completing one is much more satisfying to me.

This tendency can be good and bad. Bad because sometimes you don’t know where something will go until you finish. Good because someone has to finish the projects.

Advice for my fellow finishers

  • Don’t be afraid to start something when you don’t know how it will end. It might go somewhere and become something bigger and better than you dreamed. Or it might not, and that’s okay. It’s impossible to see how a job will work out or where a new hard-earned skill might lead. Just because you can’t see the end, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go for it.
  • Give yourself permission to quit if you’re no longer enjoying something. This can be a book, a hobby, a craft, a movie. You don’t owe it anything.
  • Have grace for the openers in your life. It might drive you crazy if your husband starts in on the spare tube of toothpaste while you’re patiently finishing the first one (not speaking from experience or anything). Either communicate your feelings and gently request that someone finish with you or choose to overlook it and move on.
  • Recognize when it makes sense to finish something out and when it makes sense to move on. If your mayonnaise has been expired for a year, you’re probably thinking about finishing the jar anyways. Don’t. It’s not worth it. Toss it out and start fresh.
  • Pay attention to when your tendency to finish is a good thing and when it’s a bad thing. As stated above, being a finisher has some really great benefits. It’s a strength of yours, especially when harnessed in the right way. This is the main benefit of knowing your tendency. It makes you more aware of when you’re blindly finishing something when you shouldn’t… or when you’re faithfully completing something you committed to and reaping the rewards.
  • Don’t feel the need to finish what someone else started, whether it’s their bag of potato chips or time-consuming project. You don’t have to finish everything.

5 Signs That You Might Be an Opener

  1. The idea of starting something new gives you a thrill of excitement
  2. The idea of having to finish something up makes you want to cry
  3. You regularly have several opened goods of the same type of product
  4. You rarely finish a book or tv series–and it doesn’t bother you at all
  5. You’ve brainstormed hundreds of projects and have never finished any of them

Advice for Openers

  • Be mindful of the cost of opening. I’m not telling you to turn into a finisher, just that you should be cognizant of the cost of opening something new before you finish what was there before. You might find that the cost is worth it to you.
  • Don’t abandon a project too soon. Sometimes you need to stick it out for a little while and let it gain momentum. If you know your natural inclination is to abandon things and start fresh, you’ll have to work against this.
  • Be understanding with finishers. The wonderful thing about learning more about yourself is that it helps you understand others better by contrast. Use this knowledge to be patient, understanding, and helpful for those that are different than you.
  • Don’t take advantage of finishers by dumping your unfinished projects or items on them. While they enjoy the sense of completion, they probably also enjoy opening things for themselves too. Don’t confuse their desire to have things finished as a desire to finish what other people started.
  • Team up with someone who will help you finish, but not necessarily do all the finishing for you. There is much that could be learned from this partnership.
  • Remember that there is satisfaction from completely finishing a project for you as well. Force yourself to finish occasionally and reap the rewards.

Are you an opener or a finisher? What other advice would you give for openers?

Kelsey Smythe is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.