Are you a career-oriented person?
Of course, you are. If not, why would you be on this blog reading this article? As a career-oriented person, you’re attracted to new opportunities that offer growth. I am too.
Recently, I sat down to analyze how we react to a new opportunity. This is what I found.
At first, you’re excited by the prospect and decide to invest effort into it. You spring out of bed each morning with enthusiasm to make the most of the new opportunity.
But, after some time elapses, maybe a few days, weeks, or months, something happens. You lose interest and you’re no longer pursuing the opportunity. The so-called burning fire in your belly goes damp.
It happens to me all the time.
I thought the well-known shiny object syndrome was the only culprit. But, after analyzing my own behavior I uncovered that there’s more to it. Several other factors play a part when we pursue new goals and ideas.
In this article, we’ll talk about the reasons why we’re attracted to a new opportunity and the aspects that cause the enthusiasm to die after. I call it the NNN Doom – New ideas, new goals, but no action.
- The life cycle of an opportunity:
- Is persisting with effort always the right thing to do?
- How to avoid the NNN Doom?
The life cycle of an opportunity:
A new opportunity, idea, or goal goes through the series of phases mentioned below.
Phase 1: The attraction phase
When you find a new opportunity, you’re captivated by it. Just like you can’t help thinking about your new crush, you cannot help dreaming about your new ray of hope.
Let’s take a few examples:
- Your friend recommends a new workout routine that sheds pounds without having to sweat as much
- You hear about an investment opportunity where you can dump a meager sum every month and reap profits
- Your coworker believes he has stumbled upon a fantastic business idea and wants you to be a cofounder
- You read a news article that spoke about a specific IT career that can earn twice the money you’re making by working half the time
- You receive a call that mentions a house for sale in the area that you were looking for at an astonishing bargain
Any lucrative opportunity creates attraction because you only look at the result. On the surface, the destination appears like a dream come true, a place where you’d yearn to be.
In this phase, the shiny object syndrome muddles your thinking, and you look at the positive side of the opportunity alone. You’re not looking at the effort required to achieve the target or the nuances involved with the opportunity. You simply tell yourself, “How hard can it be? What can go wrong? I have waited for this for a long time”
Phase 2: The enthusiasm phase
The attraction of the opportunity triggers a surge of enthusiasm within you.
You’re energetic. You’re pumped up. You’re motivated.
You put in the initial effort even if you have to step outside your regular routine and comfort zone.
- A new workout routine – you diligently follow it for a few days
- A new investment opportunity – you finish all the paperwork required for investing
- A new business idea – you spend time beyond your work hours making plans with your coworker
How long the enthusiasm phase lasts depends on 5 factors:
- whether the opportunity resonates with your character
- the speed at which you get results
- the strength of your purpose to chase the goal
- your personality
- the magnitude of the opportunity
It can last anywhere from a few days to a few months or even a few years in rare cases.
In this phase, the Dunning Kruger effect plays a part because your lack of knowledge creates a false illusion that you can achieve the goal with ease. In addition, due to confirmation bias, you dismiss any early evidence which indicates how difficult it is to reach the target.
Phase 3: The realization phase
After lingering on enthusiasm for a while, you realize that though the opportunity is lucrative, achieving it isn’t as easy as you earlier expected.
After putting in the initial work, you’re hit with the reality of the effort required. When the destination seems far away, you rethink the opportunity itself.
At the realization phase, you’re looking at two options:
- Give up
The route you take determines if you’ll succeed at grabbing the opportunity.
Possibility 1: Fading motivation causes you to give up:
If the effort required turns out larger than you expected or the results aren’t as big or quick like you imagined, your motivation starts waning. At first, you slip once. Then again. And again. Until it becomes a routine and you give up.
When you hear about a new workout routine, you hit the gym 5 days a week for the first and second week.
You expected your belly to shed some pounds by then, but you hardly notice a change. So, the following week, you skip exercise on one of the days. In the week after you skip two days. A month later, you barely step into the gym. Within 8 weeks of your workout journey, you give up entirely.
You can use the same logic of dissipation for a new business idea or a fresh investment opportunity.
Possibility 2: You persist despite the hurdles
In this scenario, even after you realize the effort required to grab the opportunity, you pursue it with discipline and patience. Even though you’re not brimming with motivation as you did earlier, you make time in your daily routine to progress towards the goal.
When you hear about a new business idea, you thought you could get it up and running with ease. After your first few weeks of groundwork, you understand the complexities and other challenges involved. But instead of giving up, you approach them one at a time and tackle them all.
Is persisting with effort always the right thing to do?
So, does persistence guarantee success? Unlike what many motivational books and Youtube videos will tell you, it doesn’t.
Persistence is a prerequisite for success, but not an assurance. If you’re chasing the wrong opportunity or an incorrect goal, no amount of persistence will fetch you results.
Here is an example:
You have a business idea where you build a device that predicts what your pet is saying.
Your effort will pay off only if there is a demand for your product. If pet owners don’t want such a device, no matter how long and hard you persist, results will elude you.
When your initial efforts indicate that your goal is incorrect, take a step back and ask yourself if you’re spending time on the right opportunity. Often, the right decision is to stop your efforts and chase a different opportunity.
“But, everyone advises us to try and try till you succeed. I can tell you so many success stories. Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk?”, you argue.
Every persistence story is strongly influenced by the outcome. When a story ends with success, people quote Edison, saying, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.“
When you persist and fail to achieve the result, people quote Einstein saying, “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insanity“
Both these quotes have powerful insight in their own right.
But what people praise or criticize is largely based on the outcome and the situation. Use your own judgement because no one knows your situation better than you.
So, persist only with the right opportunity. If not, it’ll be like chasing your crush even if she shows no interest in dating you. Sure, you’ll hear stories of a hero who broke out of the friend zone and managed to sweep the lady off her feet with persistence, but for the vast majority, the longer you persist, the higher the chances of a restraining order.
So, learn to let go and move on. And unlike the urban myth, she isn’t gonna realize she loves you and come running into your arms.
How to avoid the NNN Doom?
1. Chase goals whose journey you’re willing to endure
All goals appear enticing when you consider the result alone. But the devil is in the details of the implementation.
For example, if you want to start a logistics company, at first, you’d assume that once you figure out how to get an item from point A to point B, you’ve handled a majority of the business.
But have you considered the following scenarios:
- How will you build your network of connectivity throughout the country?
- What if your orders are too few to justify the collective shipping cost?
- How will you handle delays in shipments?
- What if an item is held at customs?
- How will you ensure timely delivery if your transport vehicle breaks down?
Let’s consider another example. You want to become an actor and grow world-famous. Sure, the result is a place of fame and money which most people dream of attaining. But to get there:
- You will have to spend the next 3-5 years running around and attempting small roles until you get a big break
- You will have no income. If you take up a job alongside, you dilute your effort and make your journey even longer
- You will have to continue practicing acting without seeing any results in the first few years
- You will have to accept the risk that all your efforts can yield no results finally
Are you willing to endure all those difficulties to reach your goal? Most people aren’t. That is why dreams remain unfulfilled.
Chase a massive goal only if it means so much to you that you’ll pursue it come what may, be it a storm or a famine.
2. Talk to one person who has done it before
When you set your eyes on a new opportunity, the shininess of the result blinds you and you fail to look at its possible dark side. Even if you encounter facts that indicate the hardships, your mind tends to ignore or reject them without your knowledge.
To know what you’re stepping into, talk to one person who has attempted a similar opportunity before. Whether he succeeded or failed doesn’t matter.
You do not have to find a celebrity who has attained stardom in that area. You can look for people from that niche on LinkedIn and find a connection.
If that’s not an option, hunt for a true story on the internet where a person has described his experience chasing a similar goal(or even a remotely related goal)
But be wary of success stories alone because media showcases triumphs far more often than failures. To avoid such a false impression, look for a story of failure too.
3. Take the first action fast
After picking the right goal to chase and talking to a person who has gone down the same path, you’re ready to get started.
Now, you must take action as soon as possible. Don’t wait to target gargantuan tasks because the bigger they are, the more they’ll overwhelm you. Instead, make a plan to break down a larger goal into tiny actionable steps that you can begin today. Not next month, not next week, but today.
As per the approach-avoidance conflict, the bigger the distance between your current situation and your destination, the higher the chances of procrastination. Therefore, you have to make progress, albeit in small proportions, as soon as possible.
While you’re making a plan to take action, balance between acting too early and waiting forever. The sweet spot is where you neither jump into action with a half-baked plan nor try to keep planning to the point of perfection.
We all have ideas. We all have hopes. We all have dreams. But only a few have the will to pursue them with actions. Without action, a promising idea fades into oblivion and a gargantuan dream dies a slow death.
Don’t be the person who’s talking about dreams and ideas but doing nothing about them. Don’t be the person who three decades later regrets not living the life he/she could. Don’t be the person who complains about his/her current situation but does nothing to change it.
Get your butt off your seat and take action. If you don’t, the rest doesn’t matter.
Maxim Dsouza has spent over a decade experimenting and finding various time management techniques to improve his productivity. He strongly understands the fact that time is a limited commodity and tries to make every second count. He has extensive experience in leadership in startups, small businesses, and large corporations.
He has helped people of different professions and age groups gain clarity on their goals, improve focus, revise their time management skills and develop an awareness of their psychological cognitive biases.