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The way we conclude our projects, seasons, or life cycles holds the power to shape our growth and evolution. Therefore, in this final episode of Season One, we're diving into the concept of 'closing with intention.'

Much like our previous explorations into self-trust, finding balance, embracing resistance, and the resilience of human connection, intentional closure stands as a pivotal force in shaping our personal narratives.

Join me as we explore the significance of purposeful conclusions. We'll delve into celebrating achievements, embracing the wisdom inherent in both completed and ongoing projects, and creating space for new beginnings.

Topics Covered

  • The influential role of closing with intention in shaping personal narratives
  • Celebrating achievements and embracing wisdom from completed and ongoing projects
  • Creating space for new beginnings through purposeful conclusions
  • Reflecting on the impact of closing with intention and celebrating milestones
  • Navigating the emotions associated with concluding projects or phases intentionally
  • Leveraging lessons from incomplete projects to fuel future growth and learning
  • Harnessing the power of reflection as a tool for intentional closure and personal evolution


Leo 00:09

Welcome to the Zen Habits podcast, where we dive into how to work with uncertainty, resistance, and fear around our meaningful work. This is for anyone who wants to create an impact in the world and cares deeply enough to do the work. I'm your host, Leo Babauta, creator of the Zen Habits blog.


Okay, my friends, this is the final official episode of this podcast season. We might have a couple more bonus episodes. There are the interviews and coaching calls, but at this point, this is the last actual official episode that I'm recording a solo episode. And so, we're going to talk about closing with intention.


By the way, if you're watching the YouTube version of this podcast, you'll see that I've got a beard on growth right now. I've never grown a beard past a couple of weeks. And so, I'm pushing past that and I'm going to do a couple of months’ worth. This is about five, six weeks now. And yeah, just playing with it. You don't have to make a note of that if you're watching the video.


But let's take a look at this season and talk about closing with intention. But first let's zoom out a little bit and think about what we've been doing here. And so, I asked you at the beginning of the season to take on a project. It could be a habit change, but it could be also a meaningful project. Like starting a YouTube channel doing some art, something that would challenge you. That would have you stepping into the unknown and meeting your resistance over and over.


And so, a number of you actually really took that seriously. I got emails from a bunch of you who said, here's what I'm doing. You sent me some examples, or you just told me about it. And I really love that. Again, this is about putting some skin in the game, not just listening and watching, but actually putting into action and seeing where you get stopped. And we had people sending questions and some really great stuff was sent in from what you're doing out there in the real world, not just theoretically.


I want to acknowledge you first of all for that, but also just to look at, the, this overall arc of the season, we've looked at the beginning where you chose something. We talked about choosing, we talked about setting an intention, a vision for this that has you inspired. And so, if you were able to do that and then you started to create some structure for yourself, you will have gone through something this season.


And at this point, I'd like to invite us to do a bit of an intentional closing kind of ceremony. Not an official ceremony, but like a ritual that we can do at the closing of a season, the closing of a project, the closing of a year, of a relationship, of a job, of really anything.


What usually people do is they will leave something and just kind of like 'It's done, but I want to look forward to the next thing'. And they don't really close anything with real intention. This is just how we are by default. We're not taught to close with intention. Although you will see that there are places in traditional cultures where they close with intention and with religions where things close with intention, but in general, just in our society, that's not the norm.


And so, what you might do at this point is we would close the podcast season and, your project would be, I'd say it's either done or undone and then that's it. We can just move on and go to the next thing. But what I really invite us to do is to be more intentional and to zoom in on this moment. To hold this closing moment as sacred.


And let's take the example of your project being finished. Let's say it's done. At this point, you can just move on to the next project and be happy you did it and move on, right? But what if you could actually celebrate yourself? Acknowledge yourself for what you were able to accomplish. And in this way, reinforce, encourage yourself, reinforce the positive things that you were able to do. Reinforce the trust that you're building in yourself.


So, you can celebrate. You can also look at, like, where did you fall short? Are there places where things didn't go as well as you'd like, or the places where you struggled or really met some difficult challenges? And this is not to, like, make yourself feel bad about it. Often, people don't want to look at this part. It's easy to celebrate, or maybe not always easy, but it can be easier to celebrate than to look at the hard things for some people.


I encourage you to look at it not as a place to make yourself feel bad or another stick to beat yourself up with, but actually a place of learning. A place of, 'Oh, is there something here juicy that I can dig into? Is there something that I'm curious about in me? And therefore, I could have some awareness of it in the next thing that I do, so that I can constantly be developing my awareness and then be working with the things that are tripping me up'. 'Oh, I noticed that I have some anxiety about putting things out into the world or telling people about what I'm doing'. Or 'I noticed that I really have a difficult relationship with structure. I'm not really, I set structure, but I don't empower it, or I don't even set structure for myself. I just say I'll do it'. And then nothing actually gets created from that.


We can look at like where we get, we fall short, even if you finish the project, are there places that were difficult for you that you struggle that you'd like to bring some awareness in going forward? Are there any gifts that you got out of this? Any learnings, anything that was amazing for you, not just to celebrate about yourself and what you accomplished, but anything that you're pulling out as a gift, a gold nugget to take with you.


And in this way, we deepen our learning for the cycle that you've gone through. Anything that you want to let go of. Maybe there's just, some feelings about yourself that you'd like to let go of.


These are some questions we can ask if you are, if you finish the project. But you can ask the same exact questions if the project was unfinished. So, let's take a look at that.


Let's say you got 60% done with your project, and you're like, 'Okay, that's not quite what I was hoping for.' And so, I was just like, 'Okay, great. It's another project that I failed.' So that's one way to hold it. Or you can just be like, 'I don't want to think about it. Let's just move on to the next thing.' Or you can just leave it sitting on your shelf, gathering dust, and hope for the best, right? Like hope someday you'll pick it up and do it again.


These are some typical ways of dealing with it if the project is undone. But what if we close with some intention here? Even though the project got undone, is there anything you'd like to acknowledge yourself for? Anything that you can actually say, 'Ah, I did do something, 60% is better than zero. I did put in some real hard work here, or collaborated in this way, or let my creativity come out in this way.'


In this way, we're celebrating anything we can celebrate. Even if you only did 1%, you don't have to do 60%. Can you celebrate that 1%? And if not, that points to a place. Where you are unable to give yourself love.


And that's not, I'm not saying that to take a jab at you. I'm saying it because it's an interesting thing to note is if you are unable to acknowledge yourself or anything that you're able to accomplish, even 1%, anything that you, where you made progress or able to show up in a certain way. Even a little bit. That's a place where you are struggling to give yourself love. You have a difficulty there. And that's good to know. Bring some awareness to where you have difficulty giving yourself love.


Okay. So, celebrating and then looking at what stopped you if you'd only got, 20% done, is there something stopped you, right? Maybe there was a lot of things going on in your life, but maybe there was resistance as well. Maybe there was a resistance to structure. Maybe there was a resistance to showing up when you said you were going to show up. Did you work with that? Did you turn away from it after you fell short?


So just by taking a look at it, you get some learning from seeing what your patterns are. And then bringing awareness to that going forward. Beyond that, is there anything that's unfinished that you can say that 'Oh this is unfinished. This is unfinished'. Not just the product in general, but like little pieces of it, anything that feels unfinished.


And then from that, would you like to make some kind of declaration, which is a what by when. When will I actually take this on? And maybe it's, I don't want to make any declarations. Maybe at this point, I want to just say, I declare this project is done to the best of my abilities, and I'm going to move on. Close the book on it. And that's okay. That's closing with some intention.


But it could be that you're like 'You know what? I'm not done with this project. I got, a certain percentage done, and I still want to finish it'. And so, in 20. Whatever the next year is, when you're listening to this right now. It's 2024. 'In 2024 I will do this. And here's the structure that I'm going to create for myself'.


And so, you make some declarations and tell it to some other people, not just yourself. 'I will do this by this date'. And that has you not just closing and with some unfinished loose ends, but actually saying, 'Okay, what am I going to do about those loose ends? What is it that I can do to have this. Move forward, if I still care about it, or close the door on those loose ends', to make some metaphors.


Okay, and even if the project is unfinished, is there anything that is a gift? Any learnings? Anything that you would like to acknowledge was a gift for you? Some amazing lessons. Anything that you can take with you into the next project? Is there something that you're like this worked! Actually, I want to make sure I remember that this part worked. This part didn't, but this part did. And that way you'll actually get something out of it and continue to improve in the next iteration of whatever it is you do. Even if it's a totally different project, that's the next cycle for you.


I think that would be all I would say in terms of questions. I've given you some questions and as you can see, they apply to both a project that's finished and a project that's unfinished. And so, I would really encourage you to take 10 20 minutes today, sit down today, block off some time, and sit with these questions. Write them, journal them out, and if there's anything that you want to take with you take make some notes that you want to make sure you remember for the next time. If there's any declarations write those down, but also tell someone else about it.


The other piece that I forgot is there anything you want to let go of? I said that in the first example, but in the second example, even with the unfinished project, you can still ask that same question is there anything I'd like to let go of? It could be just some feelings that I have about myself, all these feelings of beating myself up, or inadequacy. It could be, I want to let go of this project, or a piece of the project. It could be, I want to let go of this kind of structure, and I want to change it to something else. It's just a good question to bring some inquiry.


Okay, beyond that, so spend some time actually sitting down and reflecting on this, and this will be a closing ritual for you. And I highly encourage you to do that over and over. So, start a cycle with intention and close it with intention, just like we've done here in this podcast season.


And even if you didn't finish that, or even if you did, I would say, what's the next thing you're going to do? Do you want to start something in the next month, which might be a three- or four-month project or cycle for you? Could be a learning cycle if you're learning, a language or studying something. It could be a habit change. I want to for the next three months; I really want to focus on this. Or it could be a meaningful work type project. And it could be the same exact project. You just want to continue to do it. So, if I'm drawing, I want to continue to draw, and it will be an amazing outcome for you in the next cycle.


And when you finish that cycle, set a reminder for yourself at the end of the cycle to do a closing ritual like this and then keep doing that throughout the year. These learning cycles, they can be, six weeks long, a month long, they could be two months, three months, four months, I would say probably not much longer than three or four months because longer than that, it gets really, it can drag on. If it's a project that's going to require more than that, yeah. Break it into chunks.


The other thing I want to say about closing with intention is we have a tendency to want to rush to the next thing. If you take a moment to slow down here. What this will do is allow you to really deepen into the sacred moment of closing.


Closing something is a sacred moment. When I say closing, I mean we're finishing something, we're closing a chapter, closing a book on something. So, if you are, for example, if you are ending a relationship, you're getting out of a relationship with someone. This is a moment of sacredness.


Slow down there and really acknowledge whether it's with the person, if that's possible or without, if without them, you can do it as well, but slow down and really acknowledge what did you get out of it? What was amazing about that person? What was amazing that you did in that relationship? What feels unfinished that you need to let go of or want to make some declarations around? What do what did you get out of that was a gift? What do you need to let go of?


You can close a relationship that way, you can close a job that way, you can close a project or a milestone for a project if the project is like multiyear and you're like, okay, three months into this, there's a milestone and I want to close this milestone. Even if it's unfinished, I'm closing this milestone with some intention so that I can now move into the next milestone with some intention.


We can close our lives this way too. At the end of our lives, we can slow down and get something out of looking back and get something out of the life with some intention. So, there's a slowing down and acknowledging yourself, giving yourself love at the end of your life.


We can close someone else's life this way too. If you lose someone, we have someone who listens to this podcast regularly. Someone I love dearly wrote about an intentional closing of a life with one of their loved ones. And they did that intentionally. And it changes the way that we grieve, as this person said, but it can also change how the transition is for us.


And we can close a life this way, we can close chapters of our lives this way, if we are moving on to a new phase in our lives. An example for me is one of our kids, our youngest kid is actually turning 18 and looking to move out of the house to college, or something else. And so, we are in a transition phase as parents to something, we don't know what's next, but definitely we have had a long period of parenting kids and that is over. We're parenting adults now, maybe grandkids soon as well.


And so, this is a good time for us to slow down and really be intentional about closing out. Acknowledging what we can, and letting go of what we can, and making declarations, and learning, seeing the gifts. I encourage this for any kind of closing, as a ritual. Slow down, reflect on these kinds of questions. Maybe you come up with your own questions as well. Get curious. bring love, see the gifts, let go, make declarations, and then enter into the next thing with a kind of a clean slate.


That's all I have for you on closing with intention. I want to also close here with some gratitude. I am extremely grateful to everyone who has listened to this podcast, shared it with others, given me feedback, asked me questions, actually put into action, actually tried to do something with this.


This means a lot to me. I did this podcast because I wanted to have a more intimate conversation with all of you. And it means a lot that you have actually engaged with it, that you have created something meaningful with yourself and in the world from it. I hope you continue to use it. Go back to the beginning of the season and do another project or another cycle of your current project, another habit change. And work through this again.


This is a season that I intended to be something that you can come back to in different cycles of your life. and continue to deepen into the work. I've had people who've listened to episodes multiple times throughout this cycle, and they said each time they got something new out of it.


And that's just how this kind of stuff works, is that you can continue to work with something and deepen into it. It works like that for me too with my teachers and coach. I come back to some things that we worked on when I'm in a different place in my life and I've opened in a different way, or I've learned something new. And so, the material has a whole new, rich meaning for me. And I would suggest that is true of this season.


We're going to take a little bit of a break after the season closes. Again, we might have a couple more bonus episodes, but we'll take a break and then we'll come back with a new season with a new topic. A new theme, a new title for the season.


And so, if you have something you would really like me to focus on for Season Two, I would love for you to write in to [email protected] and let me know. If you if there's something that you think could be amazing to dive into with me. If you would like to be a guest on this podcast, if you would like to be coached in the next season, write to me at [email protected] and I would love to hear from you.


I'm going to take a bit of a break myself from this, put a wrap on this, put a wrap on this microphone and these nice lights that I have. Maybe I'll come back with a different background in the next season if you're watching the YouTube videos. I'm also going to record more YouTube videos. And I'm thinking of doing some short form videos as well in the break. You'll see those on Instagram and TikTok and YouTube Shorts if you're subscribed to any of those places.


And finally, I just want to say I've been on this journey with all of you since 2007. So that's 16, almost 17 years now. And it's been a really meaningful one for me. I'm not done yet with it. I am hoping to do it until my beard grows down to the floor or I can't do this anymore. But I know that the work that we've been doing here in this podcast and Zen Habits, the blog and the email newsletter, those have been meaningful to a lot of people.


I've gotten so much incredible feedback and it's been just as meaningful, if not more for me to be working with all of you, putting my work out into the world, to be putting my heart out there and to be engaged with you in this way. It's always a challenge and it's always a huge gift. I've been learning and growing every single year, and this has been one of the best. So, I want to say thank you. You've enriched my life, and I'm grateful. Thank you all.


If you haven't already, please subscribe to this podcast in your favorite podcast app. If you found this episode useful, please share this podcast with someone you know, who cares deeply. That would be really meaningful to me. And, if you'd like to dive deeper with me into this work, please check out the blog at or get in touch at [email protected].

Thanks for listening, and I hope you'll join me every Wednesday for more episodes of the Zen Habits podcast.

Connect with Leo


Zen Habits

The Fearless Living Academy


Music: Salem Beladonna & Robrecht Dumarey

Editor: Justin Cruz

Post-production: Diana C. Guzmán Caro & Amanda Goddard