Unfinished business

In the second part of a monthly series on building a strong personal foundation, the focus is on tidying up the past, writes Jan Aitken.

We all have a past. It is part and parcel of who we are. The past can be a great teacher, but for some it can be something that is best left well alone. Either way we can find ourselves with ‘‘leftovers’’ in our lives. In coaching, I’ve discovered those ‘‘leftovers’’ seem to fall into a couple of common categories:

• Unfinished business, including relationships, projects, and goals/resolutions: those things that we never quite tidy up properly and put away or we just dump them and run when the going gets tough.

Habits, patterns of behaviour and coping mechanisms we learned, usually early in life, that really don’t serve us very well any more. They hold us back from being our best and can cause those around us and ourselves emotional discomfort and even pain.

Hopefully, by addressing your tolerations, you might have tidied up and cleared some of that unfinished work. If not, then it’s time to get clear of your past!

By that I mean handling any unresolved matters and finishing outstanding projects that fall into the above categories. Life moves so fast that we tend to move on without completing things.

It’s important to understand that it’s normal to have some unresolved matters and incomplete projects at any one time; some things are a "work-in-progress". However, if you’re using "work in progress" as an excuse to leave things on the never never list, then maybe it’s time to reassess what effect that’s having on you and those important to you.

If your norm is a trail of unfinished relationships/projects/or ill-serving behaviours then there’s probably a bit of chaos in your world. Why do you choose to live like this?


Completing projects, tidying up unfinished business and relationship issues frees us to be clear and present in the ‘‘here and now’’.

This could help you to:

• Stay on track more often if you’re not trying to fix things up or repeating behaviours that aren’t helping you in the long run.

• Have fewer long-term problems.

• Have more emotional and physical energy.

Your confidence will grow as you complete projects and learn to handle issues in healthier ways. In short, with fewer unresolved matters, you will have more time, space and energy to create a powerful present and outstanding future.

So, ask yourself:

• What are your unresolved matters? Why do you have them?

• Does having unfinished business fulfil a need, create drama or get you sympathy? Does that create an energy that feeds you? (We can still have negative energy that drives us. Unfortunately, negative energy will eventually take a physical and emotional toll. More sustainable energy comes from a place of emotional health and resilience.)

• What would it be like to have relationships and projects sorted and to have healthy behaviours and responses?

• How much of your life is based on unfinished stuff?What is the primary source of your unresolved matters? How might you handle them?


Getting clear is a skill that needs your commitment. To avoid having to go over old ground again and again be thorough and meticulous in everything that you do. Rather than take the approach of just getting something done, make sure everything you say, touch or do is done to the very best of your ability. That will help lessen the chance that something will come back to bite you because you left it half done! Remember though, stuff will still crop up from the past because we can’t control everything or everyone.

Face things. Try not to shy away from stuff that is hard or uncomfortable. Sweeping things under the carpet just creates a lump in the carpet that you’ll eventually trip over!

Few people have a strong desire to eliminate all possible future problems by being thorough now. Most feel they can handle problems when they arise, and they do. But if you don’t need to do something twice, why would you want to?

When you take extraordinary care of what you already have and do, you are likely to attract more opportunities, live more easily and have more energy for the things you want to get on with.

Now’s the time to get clear of the past!

- Adapted from CoachU Personal Foundation (copyright), Jan Aitken licensed user.

- Jan Aitken is a Dunedin-based life coach.

For more go to www.fitforlifecoaches.co.nz.



Top tips

• Look for the source of your unresolved matters. Is there a common theme that ties all your unfinished business together? Is it fear, ego, lack of understanding? Are you unwilling to ask for help?

Get coaching (or counselling) to enable you to handle the source fully. You are worth it, as are your family, friends and loved ones. The benefits far outweigh the costs.


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