There was a time when I was fascinated by any subject that someone would talk about, any book I hadn’t read yet and any topic on Wikipedia. Literally anything that was new to me could get my interest.
My big problem was how to keep up with it. I was really jumping from one subject to another, sometimes already starting to read a new book after I hardly started another one. And then I would get completely overwhelmed.
I didn’t know what to choose. Everything was equally interesting. I also feared that if made a choice, then I would be missing out on so many other things. Or when I felt passionate about one particular subject, I would learn about it but not do anything with the knowledge.
The vicious circle of multi-potentiality
After some time, I started to see a pattern.
1. You’re interested in everything
What a curse! There are so many topics that I don’t know anything about yet, so many countries to travel to and to get to know, so many things to explore, to study, to learn…
2. Overwhelm takes over
The realisation that there are so many things to explore, to know about, to learn, to visit is completely overwhelming. It feels like being forced to make a choice.
3.1 You don’t do anything
You feel like you are forced to choose but you are unable to do so. So you don’t do anything at all or you are keeping yourself busy with trivial things, for one, some or all of the following reasons:
You fear making the wrong choice
You fear you might miss out on other things
You want to keep your options open
You don’t know where to start and what to choose
3.2 Or you take action but…
You do make a choice and now you have just a few subjects to focus on. However you’re not getting any results and you’re not finishing anything, for one, or all of the following reasons:
You are stuck in learning mode and you feel like you need more information before you can really start. This is called analysis paralysis.
You can’t focus on the subjects of your choice, and you’re always going off on other tangents. You’re a victim of the next shiny object syndrome.
4. Rinse and repeat
You’re back at point 1
Anyhow, the result is the same: In the best case scenario, you’ve learnt a lot. In the worst case scenario, nothing happens. And in between the best and the worst case scenario, there is a mess of unfinished projects that probably will never get finished.
How to break this vicious circle
This is a vicious circle and it needs to be broken somewhere.
Let’s break it down:
1. You are interested in EVERYTHING
Are you really interested in everything? What are the areas that you are not interested in? Try to narrow down. This is not about choosing between things that you want. It is about defining what you don’t want anyway. Split EVERYTHING in what is ‘Interesting’ and ‘Not interesting’ for you.
1.1 Not interested in
Next time you see a next shiny object that is in this area, it will be easier to say “NO, I’m not going there. I already decided that I was not interested in that area”. You can keep cutting away subjects you’re not interested in until only those that you are really interested in remain.
1.2 Interested in
Are there still many different subjects that you are interested in? Is it still an endless list?
Everything depends on the level of detail of your list. Try to make a more high level list, grouping related subjects together. Your list will certainly get much smaller.
When you look at all the subjects that you do like and are interested in, look if you can see some kind of big picture, some kind of overarching theme, some kind of vision. (also see “How to create an inspiring personal vision statement”).
- A smaller list of topics will be much less overwhelming.
- The moment you see something new that looks interesting, you can immediately see if it fits in your vision and it’s easier to say NO if it doesn’t.
2. Overwhelm takes over
If you consequently do what is described in point 1, then there’s much less chance of getting to this point. However, if you still feel overwhelmed and you find yourself paralysed or busy with all kinds of useless or trivial stuff, then it helps to sit down for a moment and to recognise the feeling.
3.1. You don’t do anything
While still feeling overwhelmed and realising it, it’s also good to realise that not doing anything or just keeping yourself busy is not a winning strategy. But…
You can’t choose…
Maybe you don’t have to choose. Keep all your interests and passions in a passions portfolio. In that portfolio, You just choose some subjects that you want now and you set a general order of priority. Interesting subjects that you want to keep for later go to your dream catcher. How long they stay there, that’s up to you.
Your passions portfolio is not something carved in stone. You can keep this portfolio flexible. Interests are being added and others are being removed when you’re not interested anymore.
An interest that has a priority one label now, might be on position number three next month. It’s a living thing and you keep all your options open. You will not be missing out on anything because you can add the things you don’t want to miss whenever you want.
Do you want to know how to do that? Subscribe to the newsletter and get free access to the course “Setup your passions portfolio in five easy steps”.
3.2 Or you are taking action but…
You’re stuck in learning mode or suffer from analysis paralysis
Stuck in learning mode? Apply the ‘Just-in-time learning’ principle: Learn just enough to execute the next step. Finish this step, then learn more.
Learning mode and analysis paralysis are sometimes linked to a lack of confidence to take the action needed. It is just an excuse for not taking action. If you want to know more about how to get unstuck, then read “The 5 most effective tactics to get out of analysis paralysis”.
You keep running off when you see the next shiny object that looks interesting.
Allow yourself a bit of time to explore new things, but be disciplined about it and don’t get lost in it. It is important that this exploration time is limited to one or maximum two hours per week, otherwise it will too important compared to the projects in your passions portfolio.
Again, interesting subjects, but not for now, go to your dream catcher. Interesting subjects to do now go into your passions portfolio and the non-interesting subjects, you just forget about them.
4. Rinse and repeat
If you do all the above, this point is obsolete. There will be no rinse and repeat because the vicious circle is broken.