Personal growth

Are you suffering from Shiny object syndrome?

The grass isn’t greener on the other side. It’s greener where you water it.

– Sam Ovens

Distractions everywhere

Today’s world is filled with distractions everywhere. There’s always a new app or a new update somewhere. You have to be up to date considering a lot of things and maybe you fear missing out on the good stuff in life. So you sign up to everything, which honestly can feel a bit overwhelming.

Whether it’s a new car model or what’s new on social media, you find the shiny objects wherever you look. It doesn’t have to be bad per se, but if you’re always distracted by all the new things you can easily get shattered between all the options out there, which can easily leave you a bit distracted and confused. That’s why I want to discuss the Shiny Object Syndrome today and why I think we should look out for the pitfalls.

As I mentioned above, it doesn’t have to be bad to be curious about what’s new and what’s out there for you. But it can easily turn into a bad habit and an addiction if you’re not careful. 

So what is shiny object syndrome?

In short, shiny object syndrome can be explained as follows:

  • You have a shitty life and want some dopamine kick.
  • You check facebook, buy a new gadget or engage in something else that gives you that temporary kick.
  • The thing that you were so aroused by becomes boring.
  • You are now bored again and start looking for a new shiny object.
  • You have to reiterate the process again in an eternal cycle. 

The “recommended for you” algorithm

On most platforms these days, there’s a section where you are lead towards another video, blog post etc. This is of course a way to get you to stay on the platform as long as possible, so that the platform can benefit from ad revenues.

I’m not any different with this blog, even if I’ve decided not to monetize it just yet. I always link to related articles if I think you would benefit from it, and the result of this is that the longer you stay on my blog, the higher it will rank on Google for example. So even if I’m not doing it for the sake of earning money, I too encourage you to stay longer on my blog. So I’m guilty as well. Just wanted to let that out in the open. 

I’m a victim of shiny object syndrome myself, especially when it comes to YouTube binge watching. There is always a new video to watch, and I sometimes catch myself thinking that this focusing problem I have isn’t just my fault, it’s the system that’s in place encouraging us to develop a short attention span. So keep that in mind if you have the same problem as me.

Nevertheless, it IS our own responsibility to get out of it if we want to start to focus on things that matter in life instead.

Shiny object syndrome and procrastination

There is a similarity between shiny object syndrome and procrastination. And here’s why: if you know you need to do something and you suffer from shiny object syndrome, it’s very likely that you’d rather check your social media and get sucked into that instead of doing the actual task that you’re supposed to do. The problem is of course that after you’ve fed yourself with too much facebook updates and you feel mentally constipated, the boring things that you had to do still exist and now you have to deal with them anyway. So how do we stop procrastinating and just get the boring tasks done?

Focus on an area of life

One way to “trick your mind” into doing the tasks that are dead boring is to really consider how the task can benefit your focus area of choice.

Let’s say you want to learn more about cooking. That’s quite a big area of life that you can indulge in and learn more about. Here’s the beauty of it: when you focus on such a big area there’s a lot to learn, and you can add to that area by doing many different things that at a first glance don’t seem to fit that area at all.

My suggestion is that you write a list of every area of your life that you want to focus on, so that you can find what’s important for you. If you have 3 areas you want to excel in, you can easily find ways to add to those areas with your distractions. For example: You want to be a writer, but you find yourself scrolling through facebook all the time instead. Try to use facebook as a tool to help with your writing: declutter your feed from toxic people, don”t follow groups that don’t fit your purpose, and become a member of writing groups. This way you can focus on your goal anyway and you don’t have to get rid of facebook entirely.

The joy of learning a new skill

Learning a new skill can be immensely fun and beneficial. Being a life long learner myself I highly recommend that you make learning a part of your everyday routine. But the hard part is when you hit that first bump in your learning curve, and you just get bored and aren’t able to focus anymore.

The same goes with if you want to stick to a habit. Let’s say you want to write a novel. You decide that you want to write at least 500 word per day. There will come a day when you say to yourself: “It’s ok if I skip this day. I can take it up tomorrow”.

I hate to break it to you, but there is a risk that “tomorrow” in this case will never happen. The novel will become a pile of papers stuck in your drawer forever. But there is a solution.

The formula

We all know that the solution to distraction is to focus on one thing. Sam Ovens talks about it in his brilliant video about shiny object syndrome. This is far easier said that done though. Isn’t the lack of focus exactly why we suffer from shiny object syndrome in the first place? So that’s why I want to present this formula to you so that you can stop focusing on the distractions and start focusing on what’s important for you. If you become aware of what it is, it’s much easier to do something about it. So let’s set a new iteration process that is going to help us break out of shiny object syndrome once and for all. It goes something like this:

Learn – Make – Repeat

It seems almost too simple, right? And what does it even mean? It is as simple as it is genius. The Learn- Make- Repeat formula is based on the fact that you should always be on your toes when it comes to learning new stuff IF they are a part of your field. Here’s the genius part: If you stick to one or a few areas in your life (consider it your north star in life) you can always make decisions based on if they are going towards your goal and hence if they are going to help you achieve your goals in the long run.

Sometimes you can even get away with something that almost looks like shiny object syndrome, but isn’t really. The thing is that you have to complete the whole iteration before you can start anew. You can’t go:

Learn – Repeat

for example. That is just simple procrastination and that is also a parameter of the whole shiny object syndrome equation. So all three parameters must be in place before you can reiterate. This forces you to stay creative and focus on one area in order to get away from the whiny object syndrome.

As always, I do recommend meditation if you want to gain clarity and sort out your thoughts. If you want, you can check out my brain dump meditation method, which will help you to declutter your thoughts and clear out the space in your mind.

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