Do You Have Shiny Object Syndrome?

At one point in your life I bet you have asked yourself, Do I have Shiny Object Syndrome? Flitting from one interest to another can make you feel flaky, indecisive, and wandering aimlessly in life. Adding salt to the wound, its acronym reads S-O-S, as if it's a silent plea for help. I know the feeling all too well. Whenever this question pops in my head, I have a tendency to shrink into myself and my confidence takes a massive dip. Then self doubt starts bubbling up to the surface.

It took awhile for me to notice this but it happens when I have to take a step back from what I currently love (like tarot) in order to step into something I want to do better (like yoga). If there's anything we all know, it's that there is not enough time in the day to be doing, learning, and experimenting. As someone who has multiple passions, sometimes I question whether all these passions are doing me good or just making me crazy.

The thing about Shiny Object Syndrome, you know just to add to its complexity, is that it masks itself not only as self-doubt but as resistance. When I procrastinate it's also the time I get distracted by the littlest of things. When I was working on launching this blog, during the same period I signed-up for a 40-day yoga challenge, a two-week nutritional cleanse, a blogging course, and a productivity class. It sounds impressive juggling all of them but I see it more like putting the pro in procrastinating.

Still get a nagging feeling that you have Shiny Object Syndrome? Below I share the steps I take to cope. Try it and see if you come out the other side feeling amazing or at the very least, less crazy.

1 // Hit pause. As soon as the question pops in your head, stop what you're doing. I always think if questions and doubts arise it is better to charge at them head on rather than sweep them under the mental rug. They won't go away and it won't make you feel better. With that said, don't dwell too much and don't let it stall you. Acknowledge it and move on to the next step.

2 // Admit that you have Shiny Object Syndrome. Because once you do you can figure out what kind of SOS it is. The fact that you ask yourself if you have it is a good thing. It takes guts to be this self-aware so embrace it. Then ask yourself the following question: Am I doing it because I am doubting my capabilities to do this task or because I am resisting a task?

3 // Don't judge. We are our own worst critics. Try not to judge yourself when you probe into your SOS. If you are having self-doubts, find out what's causing it and why you have decided to distract yourself. If it's resistance, what are you putting off to do?

4 // Figure out what kind of scanner you are. As notoriously curious people, we're bound to get distracted. It doesn't mean we are bad or have no focus. It just means we have the capacity to be interested in more than one thing, always on the lookout for what grabs our curiosity. This is why we are also known as scanners. I know I like to dive deep into something for weeks or months at a time and then come back to the other things I'm passionate about. Barbara Sher calls people like me cyclical scanners who have stable interests of 2 or more and who oscillate periodically between them all. As you can see, as a cyclical scanner, I have a tendency to always ask myself if I have SOS. Whenever I feel like I'm ignoring my tarot studies because I'm devoting all my time to practicing and learning about yoga, I open up my calendar and schedule tarot study time no matter if it's next week or next month. This makes me realise that I am not hopping from one interest to another because I'm flaky.

5 // Learn to manage your time. If your SOS is about resistance, you can try the Pomodoro Technique and alternate between what you're doing (the distraction) and what you really should be doing (the one you're procrastinating on). This technique means you focus on a single task for 25 minutes, take a break for 5 when the timer goes off. Repeat this four times alternating your tasks, and then take a 15 minute break. This works well for me whenever I try to write and get distracted by all the free courses online. I tell myself I will do an online course for 25 minutes, rest, then write for the next 25 minutes. Sometimes you just have to feed your curiosity and use it as motivation. This can be useful for cyclical scanners too, especially if you're juggling similar interests during a period of time.

6 // Get support. Shiny Object Syndrome or not, it's always good to have people around for support. If self-doubt creeps in you'd want that friend who brings out the best in you. Sometimes you need the reminder that you're doing progress even if it takes longer than usual. This brings me to my next point.

7 // Hold on to your passions. Being notoriously curious made me realise that I'm not doing all the things I'm passionate about because I want to have a medal or get a certificate or be the grand master. This is for another post but I want to say that the world can be tough on us especially when they say we're a jack of all trades and a master of none. It's in the doing and the learning that gives us most satisfaction. Sometimes we can forget this so don't let go of what you're passionate about.

Let's exchange notes: What are your coping mechanisms whenever you ask yourself if you have Shiny Object Syndrome? What are you working on right now that feels like a distraction? Share it in the comments.

Photo credit: Death To The Stock Photo