If you’re a creative, entrepreneur, or leader of any kind, chances are you might have suffered from shiny object syndrome at some point in your life.
You know the feeling —
Some new opportunity arises, an idea sparks in your mind, or a trend or fad hits the scene and you instantly want to take advantage of it, abandoning your other projects and running off into the sunset to chase the latest “shiny” object.
So maybe you have a hundred domain names registered for businesses you want to start someday, or maybe you have a slew of abandoned novel drafts on your computer, or maybe you’ve bought several online courses promising yourself that “one day I’ll get to it.”
With the prevalence of social media, it seems like there’s some new “it” thing going around every week. It’s easy to get FOMO and worry that you’re missing out on the next big thing that could catapult you to success.
Entrepreneurs and creatives in particular suffer from shiny object syndrome and worrying about losing out. Those who have the initiative to start something like a business or a creative project are often good at taking risks and putting themselves out there to try something new. This drive to push boundaries usually works in their favor, but it can also cause them to fall into the trap of shiny object syndrome.
Unfortunately, when we change our goals and projects too often, it can actually cause low-self esteem because we’re conditioning ourselves to believe we can’t actually finish anything. When you never accomplish the goals you set for yourself, you teach yourself that you don’t have what it takes to follow through. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you’re focused only on the things that really matter to you.
If you find yourself latching onto the next “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity every few months, hitting the brakes on your old projects, and swerving full speed ahead towards the next thing, you might be experiencing this particular affliction.
But how can you pump the brakes and make sure you’re choosing the right path? The right opportunities? How do you avoid chasing every new shiny object that comes your way, and focus on the ones that really matter?
The first step is to recognize shiny object syndrome.
If you can identify that you’re just chasing the “next big thing” instead of focusing on the truly important stuff, you’re halfway towards eliminating shiny object syndrome.
Ask yourself: have I finished any of the goals I’ve set for myself in the past month? In the past year? The past five years? If you reflect on your goals and find that you’ve abandoned most of them before crossing the finish line, there’s a good chance you have shiny object syndrome.
Evaluate your current projects and goals too — are you working on them because they serve a higher purpose for you? Or are you chasing them because you want to fit in, seem cool, or because you think it will create a quick fix for your problems?
Goals that aren’t motivated by shiny object syndrome will feel authentic and you’re more likely to work on them until they’re finished or make the informed decision to pivot.
The next step is to slow down.
Shiny object syndrome often occurs when we’re going so fast we don’t take the time to evaluate every opportunity fully before committing.
We see something that sounds good and before even really thinking much about it, we go all in. If you find yourself diving head first into new projects, courses, or plans, take a minute to breathe and force yourself to spend more time than usual considering your options.
Is this new thing really that important? Do you have to start working on it right this second? Or could you set it aside until you’ve finished working on the goals you’ve currently set for yourself?
Now that most businesses are on social media, it’s easy to get swept up by subtle marketing tactics and feel that sense of artificial urgency.
Make sure you’re taking the appropriate time to evaluate every new thing that gets you feeling excited — is this really what you want to do or is the marketing just that good?
Consider the cost of switching goals.
Sometimes, it’s best to abandon goals and projects that no longer serve us. We can fall prey to the “sunk-cost fallacy” which makes us believe we should continue working on something we’ve put effort into, even though we’ve already lost costs to it and won’t make them up in the future no matter how much we continue putting towards it.
However, there can also be a cost to abandoning goals.
If you spend six months developing a new business, only to abandon it for another idea one month before you launch, you’ll lose out on the potential gain you would have gotten from just going through with it. Most of the work at the point would already be done, so you might as well cross the finish line!
Sometimes, changing your goals can cause you to lose out, so make sure you’re not abandoning projects that are close to done just because you’ve gotten distracted or discouraged by lack of results. Sometimes it takes a while to see the returns you’re hoping for.
Focus on things that get you excited longterm.
One of the biggest problems with shiny object syndrome is that it causes you to lose sight of what really matters to you.
If you’re constantly pushed in different directions as soon as something new and “shiny” appears, you’ll never make significant progress on the things that light you up.
If you think you’re suffering from shiny object syndrome, it’s time to look inward and consider what actually motivates you.
Is your biggest dream to start a creative business? To run a marathon? To write a novel?
Figure out your big goal that gets you excited no matter what’s going on in your life — then cut out anything that detracts from that goal.
If something sparks your fancy once, you probably won’t feel motivated to work on it for longer than a few weeks.
But by choosing goals and projects that always excite you, you’ll have a better chance of making it to that finish line.
Say “no” more than you say “yes.”
Many of us who struggle with shiny object syndrome are “yes people.” We agree to anything and everything — often in an attempt to appease everyone or not miss out on perceived potential benefits.
But saying yes to everything actually splits your focus in a million different directions. Instead of being discerning about what you say yes to, you end up giving up your time and energy to other people’s goals more than your own.
If you’re not careful what you say yes to, you’ll end up helping everyone else but yourself. And if you’re not helping yourself, you actually can’t be very useful to others.
The next time you consider saying yes to something, ask yourself: is this in line with my current goals or is it a distraction? Am I just saying yes to please someone else, or is it truly valuable to me too?
You may have to say “no” or even just “not yet” to some great opportunities — if they distract you from your purpose, they’re detracting from your purpose.
The next time you find yourself reaching for the “purchase now!” button on another product that promises to change your life, or the next time you consider abandoning an art project you’ve been working on, or the next time you think about starting yet another business…
Take a pause and ask yourself if this is just shiny object syndrome at work once again?
And, if so, remember that you now have some tools you can use to make sure you stay focused and on track towards what really matters to you.