Bright, shiny objects and new ideas — Four ways to break your habit

by Lisa Rothstein on 08/17/2010

Lisa in Candy Store As DaVincis, we’re constantly losing focus and distracting ourselves chasing new ideas, usually our own. Hey, I could start a business designing bags made from all these recycled beer cans! Paint pet portraits! And that story I saw on the news would make a great movie! It’s not just the new ideas we find irresistible, but simply the fact that they’re new.

This tendency leaves us especially vulnerable to the lure of new information, especially that which regards our talents and new ways to use them or make money from them. The latest book or self-help program is as seductive as a new sports car with a box of Godiva on the dashboard and a hottie in the passenger seat.  There is so much teaching going on on the internet, and so many information products being hawked, that lifelong learners and new-idea-addicts –as most DaVincis are –are like kids in a candy store 24/7. So all that information languishes on our hard drives and gathers dust in the form of “shelf-help”. We are like shopaholics with bursting closets who still hit the mall every time there’s a sale.

My particular addiction (besides every personal development product out there) these days is new business ideas. I must own 100+ domain names; I rush over to Godaddy every time I have a brainstorm and stake my claim. Because it’s so easy and fast and cheap to build a website on WordPress now, and because I can whip out a logo and copy quickly, I sometimes get an idea in the morning and — POOF! — a new website sprouts out of nothing by the afternoon! And now I need to know about every new widget and plug-in and…wait, what about the businesses and projects I’ve already got going?

New is not always better. New can be simply neutral. And sometimes new should be avoided like the plague. Like when it entices you away from a project you’ve committed to. Or when it simply adds more overload and confusion to an already full-to-bursting schedule. Worse, it can end up being an excuse for procrastination that only looks like useful activity, or on a growing list of “shoulds”, fueling guilt and anxiety. Some of us don’t need any help in any of those departments!

If you are a new-idea-addict and it’s getting in the way of what you really want to to with your talents, here are four ways to break the cycle:

1. Unsubscribe.

You know all those mailing lists you joined because you wanted the free report, where you now get 14 emails a week directing you to the latest program you can purchase to learn yet another new thing? Unsubscribe from as many as you can that don’t add direct value to your life right now, or that simply exist to sell you more stuff. You will unclutter your inbox and remove the temptation to buy “just one more thing”.

2. Ask yourself if this is information you can use right now.

I just heard a genius thought on a call with coach Bill Baren — if you were to go shopping for fresh food right now and bought enough for three months, most of it would spoil before you could ever consume it. Compare that to information. When it “gets lost” on your computer until you forget why you acquired it in the first place, that’s kinda rotten.  When you buy a program or product that’s supposed to tell you how to make money from your book tour but you don’t even have an idea for your book yet, I call that “premature information.” No wonder it isn’t very satisfying.   The idea that you will “need it someday” is like buying a sequined evening gown when you live in a shack at the beach and have nowhere to go. Wait until you get invited to the Oscars or to dinner at the White House; then you can go shopping. And you can be sure that what you get will still be current and fresh.

3. Remember there’s always more where that came from.

This is closely related to the above. Sometimes we hoard information because we’re afraid we’ll be missing out on a one-time-only opportunity. In case you didn’t notice, that’s the oldest sales tactic in the book, but we still fall for it. If you still mourn not buying the latest, greatest program or passing on attending that seminar, remember it really isn’t the last one. Oh, the sales letter will make it seem like you’ll lose your shot at a once-in-a-lifetime experience forever, but you know from experience that that isn’t true. The same or similar stuff — or an even better version –will be on offer later on. Convince yourself to wait. Information these days isn’t a train you’re going to miss, it’s a river that’s constantly flowing by your door for you to dip your bucket into when you need to. A new book is published and a new guru is born every minute. If you still want something you passed up next time it comes around, there will be time then to reconsider. Remember that it will be much more valuable when you can actually appreciate and implement it.

4. “Shop your closet.”

Every so often, a ladies’ magazine will run a feature about shopping your closet. Meaning, go through what you’ve already got with new eyes, and try it on for size. A lot of what you’ve already acquired or thought up will be new or almost new to you. You may have totally forgotten that you already have 8 pairs of black pants, and as many how-to courses and books on the same topic, as well as a file bursting with new ideas you’ve had over the years. And you may find that everything you need to start that business or help you with that creative project has been sitting on your shelf all along. Trust me, this activity offers hours (days?) of entertainment, and it will demonstrate to you in a tangible way that you probably don’t need to add more knowledge or new ideas to your life right now.

Activity: Take a day to enroll yourself in “new idea rehab”.

  1. Eliminate temptation. Go through your email inbox and delete and unsubscribe from any emails that sell too much or don’t offer value you can use right now. You can always get back on those lists later.
  2. Since you’re already at your computer, examine your hard drive for downloads and ebooks you may not have opened or read. Create a new folder (and subfolders if necessary) for these and put it where you can easily access it.
  3. Now hit your shelves and actually count how many books you have that you have not read. If you think you will never read them, donate them. Same goes for educational programs. If you have not implemented, will you? Maybe a friend who can’t afford to buy it and who isn’t an info-junkie would put it to better use.
  4. If, as you’re perusing your treasure trove, you have some bright new ideas for projects, businesses or new activities to add someday to what you’re doing (and you probably will) be prepared to park them somewhere. Keep a running list or start a someday/maybe file as described in Getting Things Done by David Allen, to refer back to later. Don’t let new ideas sidetrack you right now.

What about you? Are you a new-idea, information or education junkie? What are your tips for handling it? Please share your thoughts with your fellow DaVincis below.

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Are you struggling with too many talents, skills, ideas? You may have The DaVinci Dilemma™! Find tools, fun quizzes, coaching, inspiration and solutions for multi-talented people at http://www.davincidilemma.com/.

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