I’ve started so I’ll finish – does that always need to be the case?

It’s the famous catchphrase from Mastermind, but is it also a motto for life? Should it be?

How often do you give up on something? I could count on one hand, and generally name, the number of craft projects I’ve completely abandoned (not including ones that remain unfinished and are on the “some day” list), the films I stopped watching (Mouse Hunt), books I didn’t get to the end of (For Whom The Bell Tolls). There have been some things that I’ve persisted with out of determination / stubbornness and the “I’ve started so I’ll finish” attitude. That’s not to say that I don’t let habits slip away, but actively deciding that I’m going to stop something is very different.

So, it was a rarity when I recently stopped the crochet project I was working on and undid everything. In knitting and crochet circles this is known as “frogging” because you “rippit, rippit”. Frogging is usually going back part of the way to correct a mistake, but in this particular case it was to abandon the project.

What was the problem?

The crochet item in question was going to be a present for someone, and something I knew they’d like. It had involved learning a new technique which I’d enjoyed and it was well underway. But I recognised that my progress had slowed down, that I didn’t pick it up as often as usual and when I did it wasn’t very long before I’d put it down again.

And because that was the undertaking I “should have” been working on, I also wasn’t doing any other craft, so I was generally spending much less time crafting which had two negatives: I wasn’t doing the thing I love to do and which relaxes me, and I was feeling frustrated about not getting the present made. I was feeling like I’d failed.

It was down to the colours - I wasn’t sure the colours I’d chosen worked together, and I didn’t like looking at it and wasn’t sure the end product would be nice. But I’d bought the yarn, set myself a goal to complete and put in all that effort so far. So I couldn’t give up – could I?

Applying a management accountancy principle to general life

From the depths of my mind I remembered something from the management accountancy module in the first year of my degree (so a while ago!). The general idea was that in order to determine whether it is financially viable to complete a project, anything in the past is irrelevant as a sunk cost and the important factors are future costs versus profits / savings.

So I took the plunge, bought some new yarn, did my frogging and started again. For the monetary cost of replacing some of the yarn, the benefit was that I am now working on an enjoyable project, able to relax, and to produce the gift. As an added bonus, the original yarn can be used for future projects – just not together.

There are habits and activities that we do because of the value of the results, if not the pleasure of the activity itself so I’m not saying we should all give up on something when it gets a bit tough. Just that the cost-benefit principle is worth considering when in doubt. The costs and / or benefits don’t have to be financial either – they could be time, satisfaction, wellness etc.

What are you persisting with?

Where are you applying the “I’ve started so I’ll finish rule”? Is that book just too hard going? How about that DIY project? Are you still watching a TV programme that’s lost its appeal? Is that hobby more of a chore than a joy now? What are you doing out of obligation, that doesn’t really need to be done?

What could you do with that time? What would bring you pleasure, a sense of achievement or peace or general wellness instead?

Why allowing yourself to quit is relevant for someone who is supporting a partner with mental health challenges

You’ve got a lot going on, trying to juggle a number of priorities. More of your time may be taken up with appointments, or doing more around the house. You might want to spend more time with your partner doing things you enjoy, and that help you both. So why also spend time doing things that you “have to” do because you started them if you are not getting any benefit? Give yourself a break, recognise that you don’t have to do it all and spend your precious time in the best possible way for you and your partner.

When my other half was signed off work with stress, my life was turned upside down too. These blog posts are based on the things that helped me, the lessons I learnt the hard way and what I realise with the benefit of hindsight would have helped. I’ve collected some of the other key learning points and tips and made these available to download at

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