New is fun; old is boring
Do you ever struggle to concentrate on one project for a long period? I am not talking about sitting down for an hour: I am talking about taking a project and seeing it through to the end.
Too often, we find ourselves jumping on the bandwagon of an exciting idea. Then, two weeks later, we find ourselves excited by another idea and the old one is left abandoned, having never achieved the success we desired for it.
How do we avoid this trap and focus on giving our existing projects the time and attention they need?
Take this blog, for example
When I launched Worfolk Anxiety, I added this blog. The idea was to provide weekly updates giving free advice and information to anyone who wanted to read it.
Of course, setting up the blog is the fun bit. Writing content every week is the tough part. Pretty soon I found myself struggling to find the motivation.
Instead of doubling down on the blog, I added a podcast to the business. This was also new and exciting. But now I had to start putting out content for the podcast as well.
Instead of having an awesome blog with loads of content, I now a blog and a podcast, both of which I was struggling to keep up with. Did I learn my lesson? Not really. I started thinking about a weekly video channel I could launch.
Why do we jump from project to project?
One reason is that we humans love novelty. It is far more exciting to build something new than continue something old. We have an incredible ability to get bored of anything: as soon as project stops being novel, it becomes tedius.
This happens to many different things in our lives:
- Exercise routines
However, it is not just novelty at play here. There is also a sense of disappointment. You start something new, thinking that it will be amazing and change your life. Then, it fails to live up to your expectation, or you do not get the results you want.
This has fear and avoidance written all over it.
Take this blog again, for example. When I started writing it, few people read it. I only had a dozen people on the mailing list. Only a few hundred people per month were visiting the website.
To write the blog would have meant accepting that I was going to have to work hard for little initial benefit. It also meant engaging with the fear that it may never provide any benefit because the blog may never become popular.
This issue causes severe resistance. It is one of the key things we are seriously worried about, right? The fact that we will fail, and feel like we have wasted years of life. That is the blocker that prevents us from making significant changes.
How do we get past the resistance?
First, we need to accept that this is what is happening. We need to take a hard look in the mirror and admit to ourselves that this is what we are afraid of.
Next, we need to remind ourselves that the only way you build something great is to take the leap. We have to risk failure to achieve our goals. This becomes a lot easier when we are the ones choosing our fate.
Why exposure is easier than surprise
There is something liberating about exposure therapy. You get a rush when you achieve something. It is also easier when you feel the situation is under control. Let's take fear of heights as an example.
If you were forced out onto the glass walkway on China's Tianmen Mountain, you would probably have the worst experience of your life. It would be horrifying.
But what if you had the choice to walk out there? What if you decided to do it, and managed it? You would feel amazing, right? The difference is that in the second scenario, you chose to walk out onto that glass.
Failure is the same: when we choose to risk something, to accept we might fail, in the cause of building something great, it becomes a lot less scary than when we refuse to admit it to ourselves.
Substitute nuance for novelty
Finally, we come back to the novelty aspect. This factor is not to be forgotten. Humans love new and different challenges. So, when it comes to buckling down, we need to think about how we can make every day more exciting.
To use writing this blog for example, can I use nuance as a way to create more novelty in my writing? One strategy is to set myself new challenges.
- Can I write more in-depth articles?
- Can I find a way to make my posts more popular?
- Can I push the boundaries into new and interesting topics?
- Can I improve my writing style to make the communication clearer?
Does this strategy work?
It certainly helps. When I was thinking about launching a video channel, I sat myself down and a long, hard think. The truth was that I was afraid that nobody would read the blog and that starting a video channel was, in some part, a way of escaping having to make the blog a success.
I resolved that I would only start the video channel after I had months of content for the blog and the podcast prepared in advance. Only after showing myself that I could continue to follow through on projects would I allow myself to start something new.
The human mind loves novelty and hates the idea that we might fail. Therefore, we often jump from project to project as a self-defence mechanism: to prevent ourselves from doing the real work and encountering the possibility that the project fails anyway and we have wasted our time.
Unfortunately, building anything of value takes time and hard work. By acknowledging this resistance, choosing to accept the risk of failure, and by substituting nuance for novelty, we can better focus on following through on our goals.
Published 5 February 2018. Written by Chris Worfolk.
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