The moving walkway: How knowing our own patterns can keep us on target

Once, while sitting at Denver International Airport waiting for a crowded flight, the only empty seat to sit down was at the end of one of the many moving walkways that whisk people quickly to their gates.

The tinny little electronic voice—a pleasant woman-robot’s voice—droned on and on,

“Moving walkway is nearing its end. Please watch your step.”
“Moving walkway is nearing its end. Please watch your step.”
“Moving walkway is nearing its end. Please watch your step.”

In between each repetition, there were three seconds (ask me how I know).

I should’ve moved (standing would have been better, right?) but I couldn’t. I was mesmerized by a pattern I kept seeing.

People would step off the moving walkway with their bags, and then do a 180-degree turn and walk back the way they came, to a gate they’d passed. The gate was usually halfway back to the start of the moving walkway. Sometimes they had to run back.

It reminded me then—and still reminds me—of a pattern I’ve finally identified in myself and how I handle personal and professional growth.

I’m a bit of a magpie when it comes to new things to learn. I get “shiny object syndrome” like no one I know, at least when it comes to learning. Ooh! A class on managing my calendar better!  Ooh! A webinar on “How to organize your files and photos.” Ooh! A workshop on building online courses!

That, in itself, is a GOOD thing, right?  The desire to be a lifelong learner?

It would be a good thing, except that I go through the workshop, tinker a bit with whatever subject matter it taught me, and then Ooh! A self-care-for-entrepreneurs series! I need that!  I have folders and folders full of the most exquisite knowledge: courses, recordings, ebooks, workbooks, spreadsheets, and a trillion links to things I couldn’t live without when I first learned of them.

In short, I learn, but before I can really solidify the learning into a rock-solid habit in my life, I jump to the next shiny learning object to gather more, and more, and more. Those new skills never become the breakthrough I was hoping for when I paid for them. It’s me, compulsively jumping on the moving walkway and whizzing right past my destination: A calm, profitable, fun, and efficient business that nourishes me.

(When I think I can outsmart this, I then I jump on the walkway going in the other direction with a new push for professional or personal growth, and whiz past my destination going the other way. But I do get some nifty new folders full of abandoned resources out of the deal. Sigh.)

It’s not an efficient way to do things, right?

So I’m making an agreement with myself, right here in front of you: No new educational ventures until I’ve either
a) fully absorbed the lessons and habits of the previous one, and can describe how I’ve achieved the goal of it (a noticeable improvement of some kind that moves me closer to my desired state), or
b) decided not to use that knowledge after all.

Either way, I’ve wiped the chalkboard clean and am ready for something new.

Elaborate/expensive/fun avoidance is still avoidance, no matter how pretty the packaging.

What about you?  What’s a habit you’ve noticed about yourself that’s beautiful on the outside, but perhaps not in your best interests on the inside?




1 reply
  1. Barbara Stahura
    Barbara Stahura says:

    Margaret, I love all your blog posts here, but this one really struck home. I, too, have SOS (shiny object syndrome), and in some ways it’s been good, because I have learned a lot about a lot of things. Yet I never really dove into anything and so my knowledge tended to be on the shallow side. But then, some years ago, I read The Life You Were Born to Live by Dan Millman. It’s about numerology and it’s fascinating! But here’s the one things that hit me between the eyes and brought about a (slow) change: For my number, 23/5, the big thing in my life is “experiencing freedom through discipline and depth of experience.” And so in these last 11 years, I’ve focused on journaling facilitation as my work (a calling, really), diving in to learn all that I can–and I’m still able to bring in many of the various things I’ve learned in the past. Pretty cool!


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