I’ve written about the dangers of “Shiny New Things” pulling you off your mission, but here I’m going to describe some common warning signals of mission-wrecking “Shiny New Things”.
What are Shiny New Things?
You’re working on your mission. It’s hard. It might not be fun. “The Resistance” smells blood and tosses you something incredibly tempting that you feel compelled to go after. You go after it. Maybe you research, or buy it, or talk to someone, or sign up for a class, or a workshop, or learn a new feature or skill. And you rationalize going off mission. Or you just duck you head in the sand and say “I need this” or “I don’t care”. Those are the Shiny New Things. And they will kill you.
Read more about The Resistance and shiny new things in “Do The Work” by Steven Pressfield. This is one of my top 5 books of all time.
But don’t read it if it feels new and shiny. Just do the work. Now.
Some Popular Warning Signals Of Shiny New Things
These are just a few ways to identify Shiny New Things. The more you can be mindful and recognize these situations, the faster you will accomplish your mission.
You Just Discovered It at the Last Minute!
Ding! SNT Warning signal! I’ve fallen for this more than I want to admit. An opportunity looks so much better if it’s going away quickly (Influence: Scarcity) and it’s new (we love novelty!) and we just discovered it (surprise!) and we feel lucky (it’s destiny!)
What fuels all this nonsense is The Resistance. We don’t want to do the hard work we need to do and a shiny new thing comes along. OF COURSE we need to do this new thing. It feels so good! This is the last chance to do it!
Don’t. What’s almost certainly happening is this: You are in the middle of mission-related work that is boring or hard or scary or otherwise uncomfortable and you really really want to do something else because this part sucks. Maybe you surf the web or check email or check social media. Resistance is there, sitting like a devil on your shoulder looking for the thing it can point to and derail you from your mission by making a half-ass case that – in your exhaustion from the “hard part” – you are more than willing to buy into.
Don’t let scarcity fool you.
The language of the opportunity is different from the language of the mission.
What is this opportunity, exactly? Does it really fit with the mission or is it adjacent? Or is it just something else you’ve been wanting to do for a long time even if it isn’t quite a fit for mission?
You know what else you’ve been wanting to do for a long time? Your mission.
This is why having a solid specific mission matters. You can hold it up to opportunities and easily detect if they are on mission or Shiny New Things. Opportunities should resonate with all the words of the mission and you shouldn’t have to add or subtract any words to your mission to make it fit.
You have the urge to edit your mission on the fly to make this “Opportunity” fit.
The mission, if well done, should be sacred. It should encompass everything you would do and nothing you wouldn’t. You should have spent many hours over many weeks, months, or years developing this.
If one new “opportunity” makes you want to change that, you can be almost certain that it is a SNT. Turn the “opportunity” down. Do not talk about it. Run from it. Hold the mission as tightly as you can.
If you must, just say “this opportunity will be part of the NEXT mission. First I will finish THE CURRENT mission.”
Finding this “opportunity” feels like a relief
Be honest with yourself on this one. Seriously. Did you feel like weight was being taken off your shoulders? Like you found a way around the challenges you are currently working on?
If you find yourself thinking, “Oh, I can just take this class or read this book or attend this seminar or conference and that will ‘be useful’ ” BE CAREFUL.
SNT can disguise themselves as “solutions” or “useful”, but all they are is a reason to procrastinate and/or abdicate your responsibility to do the hard work. The work is hard and if you need a break, schedule a break. But don’t lie to yourself.
If you are now thinking, “But this SNT I’m considering DOES solve a real problem I have”, maybe it does. Let’s test this out with the next warning signal.
It doesn’t solve a previously stated, specific problem
Instead, it “solves another problem I’ve been needing to take care of”. If you never stated this as a want, then it’s probably a SNT. If you have no record of writing this problem down, it might not be a problem that matters that much right now. Or ever.
You are rewriting the history of your problems to make this “opportunity” fit.
Chances are you’re probably just awash with vague feelings of salvation or comfort and this will present some structure or specific results to your day – but they aren’t the results you wanted.
If you’re suddenly interested in solving a problem you never voiced: ALARM BELLS.
You feel you could “learn a lot”.
When you say you could “learn a lot” (or “it would be useful” or some other version of it) which of the following is your first reaction: (1) you feel more at ease or (2) you think of the specific problem you have and the specific thing you will learn.
Be honest with yourself on this one. It’s tricky.
What specific problem are you trying to solve? If you can’t put it into words: This “learn a lot” is almost certainly aShiny New Thing.
When I just say it is a SNT, do you bristle and want to argue with me? If you’re really just looking to solve problems, you wouldn’t bristle – because you’re emotionally invested in finding the solution and identifying a SNT would energize you. But if you were looking to escape into an easier situation you’d probably feel annoyed by me for calling out your escape route and denying you comfort.
If you want to drive to New York, you don’t just start picking streets that “look” promising and hope you’ll get there. Hope is not a plan.
You don’t have unlimited time, energy or money to spend on a black box that may or may not contain what you want. You are going to die soon. Make it count. Chase specific wants.
Again, if you need a break, take a break. But don’t chase a SNT. Just take a break.
You Drop Everything To Work On It
There are times to get excited about things. But if you are taken up with a fervor to drop everything and work on something you hadn’t even stated in print that you wanted then realize it is The Resistance that is excited.
The Resistance is excited because it has found the fuel it needs.
It has found a way to delay you from your mission.
You are not excited. You are in mindless escape-mode. The reins have been handed to The Resistance.
If you’re “dropping everything” in a fit of excitement, check your mission.