The Trouble With Loving Too Many Things – How to Be Less Distracted

I can be easily distracted. There’s easily half-a-dozen different lives and lifestyles that I can imagine for myself, and I could be happy with any of these paths. From dreams of being a traveling nomad, to desires of becoming articulate in movement through dance, to thoughts about continuing my studies in earth science, and even new pursuits of counseling psychology – these broad and varied interests all have a life of their own. I often find myself torn between the need to explore more into each of these interests and convincing myself to take my time, while at the same time, feeling restless about not being able to commit.

From an outsider’s perspective, I probably resemble this puppy.

When I start to dissipate my efforts by committing to too many things at once, I sometimes reflect on the Greek Myth of Atalanta and the Golden Apples. The (very short and brief form of the) story goes, Atalanta was abandoned by her father because she was a girl and raised by a nurturing bear. She became a huntress, a great runner, and a breathtaking woman. The suitors came running, but she refused to marry after an orator prophesized that marriage would be her downfall. Atalanta may or may not have developed the best rejection method: any suitor can challenge her to a race. If they lose, Atalanta kills him (yes, slightly dark), but if the suitor wins, he marries her.

None of the suitors succeeded, until Hippomenes. During their race, Hippomenes would throw golden apples in Atalanta’s path. Atalanta, intrigued by the golden apples, slowed down to pick them up. In this way, Atalanta gained three golden apples but lost the race and the life that she imagined for herself.

There are so many ‘Golden Apples’ that get thrown on my path. An indispensable part of building a cohesive life is to reject otherwise good ideas that do not contribute to an integrated whole. Just like decorating a room, incorporating every cool piece of furniture and décor into one single room does not guarantee a well-designed room. On the contrary, a room needs space and only things that contribute to its function – just imagine a stove in a washroom.

When choices and opportunities bloom, it’s important to be able to say ‘no’ to good ideas that do not fit or serve the final goal. But if you don’t have an ideal future that you can imagine for yourself, then it’s perfectly okay to say ‘YES’ to the ‘Golden Apples’ that come rolling your way; it’s okay to act like a puppy. But once you can imagine a future for yourself – and this can include anything – remember Atalanta and her Golden Apples. If it frightens you to think about working towards something you really want, remember that failure is not exclusive to things you enjoy. You can fail at something you don’t like as well, so you lose nothing by giving it your all and a fair chance at success.

I will end with this quote:

A good designer isn’t afraid to throw away a good idea. Just because an interesting idea occurs to you doesn’t mean it belongs in the building you are designing. Subject very idea, brainstorm, random musing, and helpful suggestion to careful, critical consideration. Your goal as a designer should be to create an integrated whole, not to incorporate all the best features in your building whether or not they work together. […] Save your good but ill-fitting ideas for another time and project – and with the knowledge that they might not work then, either. 

– 101 Things I Learned from Architecture School, Matthew Frederick

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I’m grateful to have this opportunity to share my experiences on a larger platform than through my personal blog. Sharing is my way of extending and preserving my experiences, and I want this exchange to be as helpful as possible for readers! If there is anything I touched upon that you would like to read more on, please leave a note in the comments, and I will try to make it happen.

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