A man should not leave this earth with unfinished business.  He should live each day as if it were a pre-flight check.  He should ask each morning, “Am I prepared to lift off?” Frolov

Prudence demands, irrespective of our age and stage in life, that we engage in some form of life review periodically.  Accomplishments, failures, achievements, and disappointment all belong in this filing cabinet of life.  Our life’s report card, for most of us, reveals some A’s and B’s, as well as a few poorer grades.  We all have a few “I’s” as well.  The “I” stands for “incomplete.”   In considering today’s title, it occurred to me that there are three forms of this grade category:

  1. Positive
  2. Negative
  3. Neutral

Of the three, most of us are probably thinking of “neutral” unfinished business as we contemplate the term.  Completing the cleaning of the garage, collecting W-2s and 1099s in anticipation of doing our income tax filing, or looking up an old friend from school are all forms of neutral, unfinished business.  Dealing with neutral unfinished business is simply the re-arranging of the sock drawer of our lives.  It is a useful activity, but hardly life changing or life affirming.

The ugly underbelly of unfinished business has a very nasty and cold name for it: revenge.  Its definition follows: A reactive form of conduct in response to some real (or imagined) offense.  Someone has harmed us (or at least we believe this to be the case), and we proceed accordingly.  In past newsletters, I have reflected on this debilitating form of unfinished business. (See blog entry on Forgiveness – April 2013)  The polar opposite of revenge is forgiveness, which is truly a gift that we bestow on ourselves.  Conversely, revenge diminishes us and robs us of the energy that would be better invested in more expansive and productive endeavors.  It could be argued that the act of “getting even” could legitimately be defined as an act of lowering ourselves to the level of the person upon whom we seek vengeance.

Enough of malevolence, however.  As we shift to positive unfinished business,  our horizon expands and brightens.  Another name for this category of enriching activity is our “bucket list.”  We probably all have a rather vague form of one, but I invite you to refine and focus upon yours.  Helen Keller tells us, “Life is either an adventure, or nothing at all.”  On a life continuum that reveals tedium and monotony at one end and exhilaration and adventure at the other, where do you fall?  What would it take to move your identified position on that continuum some notches toward the fun side?

Obviously, there is a slippery slope from fun to foolishness.  There is such a thing as going too far on the frivolity spectrum.  But what haven’t you fulfilled that you always dreamed of doing, or trying, or experiencing?   Is there a very sound reason for not going for the positive unfinished business item, or is the reluctance based upon fear that once perhaps helped us avoid disaster but is no longer relevant?


  1. Attend to a few items on the “neutral” unfinished business list.
  2. Separate from and release the toxic “negative” items of revenge in your life from that list.
  3. Take a stroll through the “toy department” of your mental bucket list, and pull a few positive pieces of unfinished business off the shelf, and BOOM!  Fun is tugging you to get out there and enjoy!

“Unfinished business is like a hangnail or toothache. It doesn’t kill you; it just makes  life uncomfortable. “   J.V. Farrar