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February 22, 2023

Shiny Outcome Syndrome

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I was introduced to this topic through the work of a man named Justin Welsh, a thought leader I’ve been following a little closer lately. In today’s overstimulated world, we easily fall into the trap of “Shiny Object Syndrome” where we jump to new ideas or projects really quickly because it looks appealing. It has this fresh, new shine on it that is attractive and fun. So we commit to it without much intention and find ourselves overwhelmed with having too much on our plate, none of which are really advancing to a level that is concrete or valuable.

Welsh says that we have a similar tendency to chase “Shiny Outcome Syndrome”. Instead of having clarity on the few results we want to get, that we know are the most meaningful to achieve, we add on new milestones and objectives simply because we can and we’re kind of already doing it.

The trouble here is that it distracts you from your point of optimization. If you’re trying to fine-tune a process so that it gets better results, you need to have a clear metric for that result that you’re optimizing around. If new key results pop up and become the short-term focus, you’ll constantly be undoing and redoing your work. Obviously this is extremely inefficient but it’s a natural inclination we all have.

This concept parallels what Greg McKeown calls the Clarity Paradox. He says that once someone gets clarity on something, they start to get positive outcomes because they can be more effective about concentrating their efforts. Then once you have a little success, a whole new wave of opportunities comes to you and causes you to get distracted. And if you succumb to these new opportunities and distractions, you lose the clarity that made you successful in the first place and regress back to underperforming.

That’s why in the intentional living coaching I do, I have people determine their optimization quotient - the single metric that is most representative of how they want to feel and experience life. You can try new things and observe how that data point changes, but ultimately all the effort is centered around one key objective.

The antidote to Shiny Object Syndrome and Shiny Outcome Syndrome is clarity. It’s the disciplined pursuit of less but better, and the more you can resist the urge to diversify, the faster and further you’ll go.

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