Ep 026: Shiny Object Syndrome
Below is a brief outline of today’s podcast episode. Please tune into the Happy Me Happy Earth podcast wherever you get your podcasts to listen to the full episode and to hear personal examples about how I’ve overcome shiny object syndrome in my life.
What is shiny object syndrome?
This constant state of distraction and lack of focus is something that came up a lot in a recent community survey that I did. It’s also something that I’ve struggled with in the past. So, why is shiny object syndrome so common in our community?
Lack of Focus Makes us Less Effective Changemakers
Therefore it’s totally understandable that we often get into a pattern of jumping from thing to thing, from issue to issue, and from idea to idea.
And this constant state of distraction can show up in other areas of our life too. In our careers, health, relationships, etc.
Take a moment to reflect on this question: How has shiny object syndrome shown up in your life? In what areas of your life do you tend to jump from one thing to the next without finishing what you’ve started?
Distraction – A Strategy Used by Systems of Oppression
Distraction is one of the key ways that the systems of oppression currently operating in our culture keep us small.
A few weeks ago I was reading about this very thing in Layla Saad’s newsletter. She wrote about how systems of supremacy intentionally keep us distracted. They know that if we are able to focus on them we can actually start to dismantle them. By keeping us distracted by the symptoms of the issues, we don’t have the bandwidth or the energy to address the root cause.
This has definitely been true for me in the past. I used to think that it was my duty as an activist to keep myself very well informed about everything going on in the world, so I listened to a lot of news to keep myself up to date. But news broadcasters today, both liberal and conservative, spend the large majority of their time just talking about the symptoms.
Of course, we are exhausted and hopeless when we’re constantly hearing about the horrible effects of climate change or terrible acts of violence.
Healing our shiny object syndrome and getting focused are especially important for us as changemakers and activists. Moreover, by doing so we are taking the first step in dismantling the systems of oppression that are invested in keeping us distracted.
The Consequences of Distraction
When you make a habit of not following through on your plans you damage your self-trust. Eventually, consciously or unconsciously, you begin to feel that you can’t trust yourself to finish what you start. I talked about this in last week’s episode about self-discipline.
And if you rarely bring your ideas to completion then your ideas never get an opportunity to hit reality. You never get to see whether your idea will work, and the world doesn’t get to benefit from that idea.
So, by constantly jumping from thing to thing we are limiting our potential and limiting our impact. We’re not allowing ourselves to learn from our successes and failures. We’re not giving ourselves time to iterate or improve on our ideas.
We miss out on so much value and so many life lessons when we don’t see our ideas or opportunities through.
But when we do give ourselves time to iterate we develop skills, learn from our past, grow, and create more and more value for the world.
The Hidden Benefits of Shiny Object Syndrome
If you’re in one of these more exploratory phases then your work is to accept this season of life and be patient with yourself as you explore your options.
However, others of you may intuit that your inability to focus is related to something deeper. It’s an indication that something needs to heal.
Your brain and body are incredibly smart. They are the result of billions of years of evolution. So, if you’re choosing to stay in a state of distraction then there must be a good reason.
So the question becomes, “Why am I jumping from thing to thing? Why can’t I focus?”
Before we can get focused and overcome shiny object syndrome we must first identify and work through its hidden benefits.
The Hidden Benefits
- We think that we can avoid failure and the uncomfortable emotions like shame and embarrassment that come with it by remaining indecisive. Distraction is a strategy to avoid feeling uncomfortable emotions and protect our potential.
- Sometimes we feel like we need to jump from idea to idea because we have to capitalize on our motivation. This is an indicator that you lack the self-discipline, self-trust, and/or planning tools to remain focused on the task at hand and come back to your new idea at a later date.
- Feeling busy all the time helps us feel worthy. If we’re juggling a bunch of tasks and involved in a bunch of things then no one can call us lazy. Therefore, shiny object syndrome is a strategy to feel worthy and avoid criticism from yourself and others.
I dive deeper into each of these hidden benefits and talk about how to heal each of them on the podcast.
Tools to Overcome Shiny Object Syndrome
Below are two powerful tools that I support each of my clients in developing. These tools will help you to get focused and organize yourself so that you can become more effective and efficient.
Identify Your North Star
It is so important to have a clear North Star because in order to get focused we need something to focus on.
You can use your North Star to filter out opportunities and ideas. For example, when an idea pops into your brain you can ask yourself, “Does this idea align with my north star?” If yes, make a plan to pursue it. If not, you can drop it or share it with someone else who might want to run with it.
In the same way, when an opportunity comes up you can ask yourself, “Does this opportunity get me closer to my North Star? Do I have the capacity to pursue it?” If the answer to both of those questions is yes, then go for it! If not, it’s an easy no.
Create an Impact Plan
Your Impact Plan is your trail map. It maps out the steps that you will take to reach your destination and make your impact!
- First, do the inner work to heal the thought patterns, fears, and beliefs that are at the root of your inability to stay focused.
- Next, find your focus by identifying your unique North Star.
- Then, create an actionable Impact Plan.
As always, I hope that this episode and these show notes area beneficial to you.
Please subscribe to Happy Me Happy Earth wherever you get your podcasts!
Follow me on Pinterest!
Feedback? Topic suggestions? Ah-ha moments? I’d love to hear from you!
Please email me at email@example.com
Thanks for listening and/or reading!
Featured image: Photo by Unseen Studio on Unsplash