Shiny Object Syndrome

This blog post is from my premium (aka paid) newsletter, Practices. If you are interested in practical insights and applications on how to do creative work, consider joining here. And if free is more of your tastes, I also do two other free newsletters, Considerations and Bookaholics.


“Art is never finished, only abandoned.”Leonardo da Vinci

The biggest enemy to accomplishing our goals is ourselves.

I don’t necessarily mean self-sabotage (although that’s a thing we have to face sometimes too). In an odd twist of fates, it’s easy for us to unintentionally block our goals by wanting too many of them at once.

Misplaced enthusiasm is just as dangerous as fear of failure (or fear of success).

I’ve lost count of how many new shiny ideas have derailed my current projects from being completed. (There’s also the issue of the billions of ways we could be spending our time. But that’s a conversation for another day.)

My problem is I love creating and learning about a lot of different things, and I’ll often have many ideas on any given day I could pursue. (Humblebragger) Just today, I had five little song ideas I recorded on my phone. They’re nothing special, but the problem is they have the potential to be, if—dramatic pause—I focused on them.

How do we choose what to prioritize? 

First off, no idea is worth anything if it’s never started or completed. Once you realize that, it’s easier to think long-term about where you want to be and what you should focus on in the short-term. 

Jumping from one idea to the next is fun, but if we were to look back on our time today five years from now, would you feel accomplished by the long string of uncompleted projects and desires? Or would you rather focus on a few things and be proud of what you finished?

There are only 24 hours in a day and roughly only 1-5 hours of energy we have to dedicate to our creativity. This limitation demands us to prioritize. Otherwise, we may spread ourselves too thin and diminish our creative power. We can do anything—but not all at once. 

But having limitations does not mean we are *limited.* Rather, limitations give us the opportunity to think outside the box.

Prioritize what you love to do. Obligations and responsibilities are important, but doing what you love is what will set your spirit on fire with energy, joy, and meaning. Ignoring our calling will never win us any favors.

How to stay focused:

1. Out of sight out of mind.

  • Create an environment that allows you to focus.

2. Build up the habit.

  • Getting rid of everything that’s distracting you (like unsubbing from entertaining things that are eating all of our time) is helpful, but it doesn’t solve the underlying issue.
  • Don’t surround yourself with a stack of todos. For example, if you’ve got 50 books you want to read, don’t pile them around you, remind you of all the things you haven’t done yet. Keep only the single book you are reading out in your environment. The 49 others are just a distraction from the book in hand (pun intended).  

3. Set time wait limits.

1. Write down, record, and sketch out any idea that pop’s in your head.

2. Set a wait-limit (24 hours, a few days, a week, two weeks, etc.) before you jump on anything right away. By giving yourself a wait-limit, you avoid the honeymoon of the “shiny object syndrome” as well as staying on track with your current priority.

4. Reward good habits, punish bad habits.

  • ….but not too much. You probably reward yourself with Ice Cream every time you make it to the gym. Don’t be too harsh on yourself either. Perfection can derail us just as much as uncertainty or unclear goals can.

5. When in doubt, act on something.

  • Even if you aren’t 100% on what you want to do, create some forward momentum by doing something. Something is better than nothing.

Reflection: What’s one thing you want to focus on this week?


I hope you enjoyed this edition of Practices.

Let me know your thoughts, feel free to reply back to this post or email me at josh [at] renaissancelife [dot com]

P.S. If you liked this post, you’ll love my conversation with Jessica Jollie (Owner of Yoga Landing) on the Renaissance Life Podcast.

P.S.S. Don’t forget to subscribe to the free sister publication ConsiderationsWhere Practices is about creative output, Considerations is about creative inputs.

Also, if you are into books as much as I am, I also have another monthly newsletter about what I’m reading each month called Bookaholics.

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Keep pursuing,

— Josh

Renaissance Life | Daily Blog #1198

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