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In our fast-paced lives, it’s easy to finish one project and quickly move on to the next, often leaving behind a trail of unresolved feelings and incomplete experiences. This common approach can hinder our personal and professional growth, leading to a cycle of ongoing dissatisfaction. But what if we could transform the way we conclude our projects to feel truly accomplished and fulfilled?

In this episode, I introduce the concept of "closing with completion," a powerful practice designed to help us conclude our projects and life chapters with a sense of fulfillment and clarity. We explore the steps to acknowledge our accomplishments, forgive ourselves and others, and extract valuable lessons from our experiences. This process not only frees us from unresolved emotions but also prepares us for future creative and personal endeavors.

Join me as we dive into the transformative power of completion and explore practical steps to incorporate this practice into our daily lives, ensuring that each ending becomes a powerful foundation for new beginnings.

Topics Covered

  • Understanding the concept of "closing with completion"
  • The impact of unresolved feelings on personal and professional growth
  • Steps to acknowledge accomplishments and extract lessons
  • The role of forgiveness in achieving a sense of completion
  • Practical journaling prompts for processing emotions
  • How to feel accomplished and clear at the end of a project
  • Transforming the way we conclude projects for future success
  • The importance of emotional completeness in creative endeavors
  • Using completion practices in various aspects of life
  • Insights on coaching for achieving completion

⏱︎ Time Stamps

00:00 • Introduction to the Zen Habits podcast

00:39 • Season finale and the concept of completion

04:09 • Understanding the default way of closure

11:21 • Exploring the possibility of completion

14:21 • Prompts for achieving completion

19:31 • Applying completion in various aspects of life

20:23 • Invitation for coaching and season wrap-up

📄 Transcript

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.

Hello Zen Habits podcast listeners, Zen Habits readers, my friends. I am closing this season with this episode. We have one more bonus episode for you, but this is the final episode of the season. And we're going to talk about closing with completion.

For closing anything, any chapter in your life, with a sense of "I'm not holding on to anything." I've forgiven myself for anything that I've failed at. I've forgiven other people. I've acknowledged the victories that I had. I've taken some learnings from this. I see the gifts that I got out of this, and I'm holding how it went as how it had to go.

In fact, I'm holding it as perfect. And that is a powerful way to close anything, whether it's a relationship, if you're coming to the close of a relationship, a job, if you're leaving a job, a project, if you're just finishing a project, or even a milestone within a project. This is a powerful way to close any project, any chapter in your life.

And so what we're going to talk about is how it usually goes, and then the possibility of completion, and then how to actually get complete. But what we're talking about here is your creative project. So, in the beginning of this season, I asked you to take on a creative project. You know, some kind of book, some kind of art project, something.

Even creating, you know, a business or some kind of content online or some kind of community organization. Something where you are creating something in the world and to take that on so that you can actually work with the episodes here that we're putting out there. But also, you can see where you're getting stopped.

What are the problems that you're facing? And instead of those problems being something wrong with you, they're a place to practice and even ask me some questions. So, if you've been noticing some stuff, send me an email. I love the emails that I've been getting. [email protected] is the way to reach me.

But as we close this season, we're going to talk about closing that project. Now maybe you're not done with a project. Maybe there's more to be done, but let's imagine that you are closing this project either completely or a chapter of the project that you've taken on. So, if you're writing a book, you're like, "Okay, well I've been working on this book for four or five months now."

I want to close this chapter, get something out of this so that I can move on to the next chapter of my writing with a sense of clarity and having cleared out whatever was there for me. So that's what we're looking at here, is how to take this project that you've been working on and close it with completion.

That doesn't mean you're going to stop working on it, or you're never going to work on it again. But let's imagine that there's a chapter here that you want to feel a sense of completion. And so I encourage you actually to do this with every project that you're doing, whether it's a work project, personal project, at home, if you bought a course online and you know it didn't go well, finish that course with a sense of completion.

This is not how we normally do things, but there's a power in it which we're going to talk about. Okay, so how do we normally do things? Let's talk about that first, and then we'll talk about what's the possibility of doing it this other way and then how to do it. So, how do we do things? Well, normally we close it with a sense of incompletion.

This is the default way to do it. This is how we're trained by the world to do it. And so we finish something, let's say we finished school, and we're like, "Ah, I did school, but you know, there was a bunch of things that I didn't do, and I wasn't that great at it." And I just feel a sense of suckiness about myself or like I just wasted a bunch of time or money.

And so that's usually how we do. We have all these feelings about ourselves or how it went or maybe about other people. I was like, "Oh, my professor this, and my boss that, and my partner this, and coworkers this." So we have these feelings towards them, and then we just move on to the next thing but with this stuff that we're carrying around.

If I'm feeling a certain way about another person, I'm just like, "Okay, fine. That's just how I feel about them." Maybe I come to a conclusion: I don't want to work with that person anymore. And that conclusion comes from this place of, "I feel that they suck. I don't like the way that they are. I can't trust them. They're a complainer. They're always negative, and so I just don't want to work with them." As opposed to getting complete on how things went and forgiving them, letting go of whatever it needs to be let go of so you can feel clear.

That doesn't mean you need to keep working with them, but it actually means it could be possible to work with this person if you've let go of something. But again, how does it normally go? We hold onto it and we just decide, "I can't work with this person," or "I don't want to be in a relationship with this person because they suck for all of these things they did."

And what we're doing with other people, we do with ourselves, always, right? So if I am holding all this stuff about other people and just feeling, coming to some conclusion and feeling crappy about them, that's also what I'm doing about myself. I look at this project that I did and I'm like, "I didn't do it every time that I said I would. I said I was going to do it five days a week. I did it maybe once or twice a week." So I'm looking at all the things that I didn't do, and then I'm feeling crappy about it. And I can come to a conclusion: "I can't trust myself. I should just never take on a project again, or anytime I take on a project, I'm just going to know that I'm probably not going to really do it."

And that's going to have an effect on everything that I do going forward because of this conclusion that I can't trust myself because of some feeling that I have about the way that I did things. And it's not only about other people and ourselves, we might just see how things went with a project and have a sense of incompletion about that.

So, for example, I tried my best on this project, but it just didn't work. Like, it just did not go very well. There were times when I was waiting on other people, or people didn't respond well to it, or I didn't understand how the technology worked, or something that made it go really badly. Maybe it was out of my control, maybe not, but the project went badly. And then I'm just like, "Ah, it sucked. Maybe I shouldn't work on that kind of project anymore." So I come to a conclusion based on how I feel about how it went. That's how it normally goes by default. And then we just carry that on and it affects everything that we do from that point on.

All of the stuff that we're still carrying around, and we're carrying baggage around from childhood, from our teenage years, from our college years, from our early jobs and early relationships, we're still carrying that around. And from all the stuff we're carrying around, we have a sense, a conclusion. We come up with beliefs based on how we feel about it that is really limiting us going forward.

All future relationships are going to be affected by how I feel about my past relationships, either how I did or how it went or how the other person was. And it's like, "Ah, I'm just never going to ever get in a relationship with people who have blonde hair," you know, because that person was untrustworthy.

That's a silly example, but that is actually how we are. We're just like, "Ah. I swear off men. All men suck because of these three relationships that I had where they were really bad." Or, "I can't trust people to be on Instagram because my last partner was flirting with someone on Instagram, and therefore I'm never going to be in a partnership with anyone who uses Instagram. Or if they do, maybe what I decide to do from my feelings about how that last one went, maybe what I decide to do is I have to be able to monitor your Instagram." That's just how it goes, right? So these are kind of silly examples, but these are actually how it goes. We usually don't say these things out loud to ourselves.

We just take on these beliefs, these conclusions. So hopefully you can see here that everything we do going forward—relationships, projects, jobs, partnerships with colleagues or other people—all of that is informed by the conclusions we came up with, which are based on the feelings that we had about how things went. And we just keep carrying that forward. So that's how it goes.

And it's just like we're just adding all this crust onto ourselves from everything, even how today went. I might have some feelings about it, and I'm like, "Ah, that sucked."

And actually, we might have hundreds or even thousands of conclusions based on how things went. And we just use them as operating principles going forward. And that controls how our life is. Our lives are controlled by all of this stuff we've just talked about. So that's how it goes by default. And the other piece of that is that I'm often just carrying around feelings.

I'm just like, "Oh, I'm so mad about this, these people," or "I'm so resentful," or "I'm so judgmental and frustrated with myself," or "I'm just carrying around a lot of resentment," is usually how it goes. Resentment, resentment, resentment, or hurt, hurt, hurt, where anything that touches us now is just like, "Ooh, that hurts."

Because I'm carrying around all of the pain of what happened or the frustration or anger about what happened. Okay, so that's how it goes usually. Let's talk about the possibility of completion. So completion, let's imagine there was a process that we could go through, which we'll talk about, where by the end of it we forgive ourselves, we forgive the other person, we felt whatever we needed to feel so that we don't have those emotions anymore. And we see the gift, the learnings, the accomplishments of everything. Even the failings, we're seeing like, "Oh, there's something to be learned there." And from those failings, I'm going to learn. I'm going to do some things going forward. But actually, those were really good learnings for me through those failings.

So imagine that we could have that. Well, at the end of a project, if I did this completion process, I'm like, "Oh, I'm really proud of the things that I did do. There were some things that I actually did that I could acknowledge and celebrate and actually feel really proud about. There are failings, and I'm like, 'Oh yeah, I can acknowledge those as well and process all the feelings that I had about those failings,' so that by the end of it, what I'm left with is, 'Well, can I learn from those failings?' And then what was the gift that I can get out of those failings? In fact, what was the gift that I can get out of this whole project? What am I going to take forward that would be amazing?"

And then, what do I need to let go of? What do I need to forgive about myself or towards others or forgiving the world so that I can be free? And at the end of this, I can feel free of it but also take the learnings and the feelings of accomplishment. And what this is going to do is build some trust in myself that I can work with however a project goes—failings and accomplishments. Trust in myself because I'm acknowledging the things that I actually did do instead of just looking at what I didn't do. Trust in myself because when I failed, I actually took something from it, processed the emotions, and then took something from it. Trust in myself to deal with the emotions that come up around a project. And a sense of just like being clear of all of that. It's lighter having processed whatever emotions there were to process.

I feel lighter, and I'm going to give you some prompts. And the work to do is to take those prompts and actually journal about it. It could be on a computer where you're typing the answers, or it could be in a paper journal, a notebook where you're actually writing it down. But go through it.

And what I would say is don't only let it be an intellectual exercise. If there are feelings about it, let yourself feel the feelings because the goal really is to feel whatever needs to be felt so you don't have to hold on to that. Okay, so if you're ready, I'm going to list these out, and this will be in the transcript of the audio podcast as well.

Okay, so the first question is: What accomplishments do I want to recognize? What did I accomplish? What did I actually do that I want to recognize? Now I encourage you not to be focused on the things you didn't do or where you failed for this question. Here, we want to actually just celebrate, like, "Ah, I actually did do some of my project. I actually did show up on certain days. I actually created some things," or whatever it is that you want to acknowledge. So that's the first one. Spend some time with that.

Second, I want to encourage you to look at what you didn't accomplish. What were you not able to accomplish? So this is where you fell short. So this would be like, "Ah, I didn't do five days a week. I did three days a week, but I didn't do five. I wasn't able to be consistent about it. I didn't get to the end of the project where I had this, let's say, a book. I didn't finish the book. I didn't write all, you know, 100,000 words that I was aiming to write. I only wrote 40,000." And so this isn't necessarily to beat yourself up, but it's just to have an accounting. What did I do? What did I not do? And if you have any feelings about that, let yourself feel those feelings as you go through this.

What stops can I identify? When I say stops, I mean something that stopped you from doing the things that you wanted to do. So if you looked at what did I not do? Okay, great. What got in the way? What obstacles, what stops were there? And this is a way for you to actually learn from the failings. Here are the stops that I can actually be more aware of going forward. This is really, really valuable information. So what stops can I identify?

The next question is: What gifts am I getting out of this? So this might be some learnings from the failures. It might be some amazing experiences you had. It might be a sense of accomplishment, or you know, you actually created deeper relationships with someone. So what gifts am I getting out of this?

Spend some time with that and really feel the appreciation for that. What am I taking with me from this? And then a related prompt is: What do I want to let go of? So what am I taking with me, and what do I want to let go of? So those would be two different prompts but letting them...

The next prompt is: What do I want to express so that I can feel more complete? This could be an emotion like, "Ah, I'm so freaking mad about this," or "I'm frustrated with myself," or "I'm so mad about how things went," or "I'm frustrated with the other person," or "I'm really hurt by how it went." Maybe I just need to express it here in this journaling exercise. Maybe I need to express it to the other person. And then for the things that are incomplete, are there any commitments that I'd like to make going forward to take care of those? So the things that I wasn't able to do, maybe there's still some things that I can do about it. Maybe if I didn't write all 100,000 words of the book, maybe I want to actually create a commitment to finish the book.

In certain months of this year, I want to take on this project again, the next phase of the project. Maybe I want to commit to writing with others or joining a course. Maybe I want to get some coaching or some support from an accountability group. What do I want to commit to so I can have those things feel like they're taken care of?

And maybe it's just like, "I commit to not doing this project anymore." So I want to let go of those things, but maybe there are some things that I want to actually commit to taking care of. So if it was, you know, if you were doing your finances and some completion around that, you're like, "Ah, there's some bills that I haven't paid."

Okay. What are you going to do about that? "Okay, Friday, I'm going to sit down and pay those bills." And there's some taxes that I didn't do. "Okay, great. What are you going to do about that? Well, I'm going to call the tax agency on Monday and work it out." Okay, great. So this would be a way for you to have everything that's incomplete being taken care of if needed.

I think that's about all that I wanted to share around completion. So if you go through this exercise, you can actually get more and more complete. What I want to say is this is a practice not just for this project but for relationships, for how a conversation went if it went really badly, or a meeting or a presentation or a project.

A project like I said, the end of a chapter of your life. It could even be just like, you know, how last week went for my marriage. So this is something you can be practicing over and over and over again to get a feeling of completion. And this would be what I would encourage for every project, for everything that you're doing.

It's a muscle that we can work so that we can feel more and more complete. So if you would like to get some support with this, I actually do this in the coaching that I do with people. If you're someone who is creating something big in the world and really wants to create some breakthroughs and transformations for yourself and you want to get supported in getting complete, in commitment, in building trust in yourself, and in creating something really powerful and meaningful in the world, come and talk to me about coaching. We can have a free conversation, [email protected], and just let me know. I want to talk about coaching. It is a commitment. I ask for people to do a one-year commitment with me in the coaching, and the price isn't cheap. It's a commitment financially as well.

It's a commitment in terms of your life energy. So if you are ready to commit financially and with your time and your energy to actually creating some transformation, to get supported in getting complete, reach out to me, [email protected]. You can also send me an email at that same email to share how your project went, share anything about this completion exercise, share how the season was for you. I really, really want to say thank you for listening to this season.

This has been season two of the Zen Habits podcast. There's one more bonus episode coming after this one next week, but this has been an amazing season for me. I've gotten some incredible emails from people sharing their projects, sharing their questions, sharing their struggles. I've interviewed some incredible creators as well, from composers and musicians to writers and coaches and collaborators, to people in my Fearless Mastery program: an entrepreneur, a habits author who's pretty well known, an artist, and a podcaster, someone who coaches other authors, a psychiatrist, and a course creator who you'll see next week.

Some really, really amazing people. And I have found this to be an incredible gift. I'm so grateful to be able to do this podcast for all of you and to be in conversation with you and supporting you and what you're creating in the world. If you'd like to work with me, come and talk, but otherwise, we're going to take about a month break off after next week's episode.

And then come back with season three, which is unannounced yet. I haven't announced what the topic will be, but I promise you it'll be powerful and amazing. Thank you all for listening and watching this podcast. I'm Leo Babauta, Zen Habits, and I'm grateful you're here.

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.

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Music: Salem Belladonna & Robrecht Dumarey

Editor: Justin Cruz

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