What Are You Building?

Bill Abbate

How much thought have you given to the life you are building? Consider this question – "What are you building, and what will it look like if you finish it?" However you answer this inquiry, you will gain real value by reading the remainder of this article.

A metaphor for life

To build a house, you must first purchase land and lay a foundation. When the foundation is complete, you can start on the real work. Building the house you will live in for the remainder of your life involves learning your limits and discovering what you can accomplish and how it will look. This is also a metaphor for building our lives.

Like building a house, building your life comes with many challenges. These challenges will test your mettle, requiring you to learn from them or not. The lessons are your choice to use or ignore.

Too often, people give little to no thought to what they build. Completing something of value will be virtually impossible without a plan and an estimate of its cost. If you fail to plan and understand the cost of building, you may wind up with a hodgepodge of a structure. It could have a few interior and exterior walls partially built with an unfinished roof. Without proper planning, it will be structurally unsound. The first storm that comes along will flatten it!

Life is virtually identical. While many of us possess the land (ourselves), many forgo putting in a proper foundation (education and experience) that will build the life they desire.

Will the foundation you have built or are building support the life you wish to construct? Sadly, there are many faulty foundations and unfinished lives in the world. For some, even if they complete the foundation, they often abandon it as soon as they see what they think is another opportunity.

With each new opportunity, they leave the foundation they have already worked on and invest in building another foundation. Before long, they have foundations all over town with so little built on them they have nothing of value to show for their work. Does this sound like someone you know? Why does it happen?

Some become frightened or bored with their progress, and any new "opportunity" becomes an excuse to give up and try something else. They decide to move on, and so it goes repeatedly, with little or nothing done to completion. Why do people do this? Because they either fail to plan or their plan is so poor that they cannot define its outcome.

"If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!" Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

I have known many people who seem unable to stop chasing one thing after the next. They purchase that new product or program that promises success, go after that next training and certification that will change their current situation, or get that next degree to solve all their problems. On and on it goes.

Therein lies the problem with so many of us. We don't think things through or count the cost, partially completing what we wish to have. The real value in life and construction is in the completed building.

When you lust for the next bright, shiny object that comes along, a.k.a. BSOS (bright shiny object syndrome), how can you have anything but temporary satisfaction? For most, this syndrome becomes another kind of SOS (save our ship) situation. At the risk of mixing metaphors, their ship is sinking! They become the guy building foundations all over town with nothing to show.

What can you do?

"Building is about getting around the obstacles that are presented to you." Jeremy Renner (1971-present)

I have had the good fortune of coaching, consulting, and working with many people with BSOS who send an SOS for help. It can be a challenging behavior to modify. Difficult, but not impossible.

It usually takes a real awakening for such a person to see something through to completion. Breaking the compulsion of looking for the next thing that will "be the one that will make the difference" takes real work.

Such a person must learn to:

  • Think things through, or at least more thoroughly.
  • Plan well before jumping into the next thing.
  • Honestly weigh the value (time, energy, resources, etc.) of finishing what they have already started.
  • Count the cost of remaining or changing.
  • Examine the foundation they are working on and others they have abandoned to see if any are worth completing.
  • Recognize and admit they have a case of BSOS.
  • Develop self-control and the ability to say no to the next thing on the horizon until they complete what they have already planned and started.
  • Quit the insanity! Remember, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly, expecting a different result.
  • Become fully intent on finishing what you are building!
  • Develop the desire to change and begin building something real and fulfilling in their life.

These are only a few ways to approach BSOS. Too many refuse to recognize that chasing the next thing will likely lead to failure. Failing to tackle this issue can lead to an unhappy, frustrated, unfulfilled life.

If you recognize yourself in this article, seek help. A good therapist, psychologist, mentor, or coach can assist you. While some people will never change, I have known many who have successfully broken this behavior.

If you are unwilling to work on yourself, I wish you the best. But know, there is nothing wrong with seeking help.

"We shape our buildings; thereafter, they shape us." Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

Final thoughts

At the end of life, will you have built something you can be proud of, or will you have only left a bunch of unfinished foundations and partially finished buildings?

Why not try staying the course until what you are building is completed? Wherever you are and whatever you are doing at this time contains a high degree of probability for success, provided you see it through. Consider what you can do to build where you are and how amazing it will be to complete this work.

I encourage you to take some time to step back, examine what you are doing, and begin building a beautiful life on the foundation you have been preparing and building on. Before long, you will have a completed structure of value you can be proud of that can lead you to a very fulfilling life.

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA

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