Unable to really get into anything
August 11, 2011 7:53 PM   Subscribe

The tendency to not get into things in detail. See inside for more.

I have noticed that i am unable or unwilling to immerse myself in any given activity. Be it a sport i play, or my job, or an instrument i learn. This has made me a half baked jack of all and master of nothing. Offlate i am very concerned about this as a problem because i think i am living a mediocre life because of it. How can i overcome this. Why do i not want to immerse in something ?
posted by gadget_gal to Human Relations (15 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Can you give more detail or an example? What happens when you start something new? Do you just drop it for the next shiny thing that comes along?
posted by asterix at 8:11 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

There's nothing really wrong with this. You're never going to be the best at all of these things you do anyway, so why not get as good as will make you happy? There's nothing wrong with (for example) enjoying being a mediocre tennis player, working a decent job, and playing chords on the guitar sometimes. That is a good life.

Even so: pick a few things you find interesting and switch back and forth between them as you get bored, as opposed to picking up new things all the time. You could also sign up for classes and commit to a certain length of time, so that you have outside pressure stopping you from dropping these things. A club or group would also work.

Also, this is one symptom of ADD and you could look into that. Especially if you have passion and drive and would like to get good but somehow it just doesn't happen.
posted by vogon_poet at 8:29 PM on August 11, 2011

I would also suggest being screened for ADD/ADHD.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:50 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hm. Are you afraid of failure? You may not want to put yourself "all in" to something because if you fail, then you'll feel that you're worthless. If you don't actually try at something and fail at it, then you have an excuse--you weren't really trying.
posted by minx at 9:27 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have this issue because I'm really indecisive. I don't like to fully immerse myself in anything because I think I may be missing out on something else - so I'll switch to that something else right away, kind of like asterix describes.

If you give an example, we might be able to help more.
posted by brynna at 10:04 PM on August 11, 2011

For me, a certain not-too-deep knowledge of something (enough to understand the basic principles and maybe recognize what it means to be good at it) just is enough to satisfy me. I don't particularly need to be an expert at it to enjoy it.

I'd rather know a little bit about a lot of things, rather than a lot about one thing. Which is why I'm a librarian and not a college professor. I don't think I live a mediocre life--I live a varied and interesting life!

Neither one is wrong, but I think trying to make yourself into the other kind of person is just going to make you crazy.
posted by exceptinsects at 12:19 AM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Why do i not want to immerse in something?

One guess? The things/jobs you have been working on do not interest you. I'm kinda like that. I'll learn something new (ooo, wood sculpting!) and stop it after awhile after I got over the initial "omg this is amazing" stage.. However there are subjects that I hold close to heart, these I continue moving forward, improving.

So perhaps, you haven't found the stuff that ignites the fire in you?
posted by TrinsicWS at 1:43 AM on August 12, 2011

Response by poster: I will certainly screen for ad/adhd. The issue is not so much that i am unable to get into something but more of unwillingness to deeply dive into it. Eg. Professionally i manage software products. It would help my career a great deal if i got more opinions based on the internal workings of the code buti dont want to go down to this level. I know there are generalists and specialists in any field, but to excel as someone who knows a bit about everything is getting really really hard these days for me. Overall i am feeling unfulfilled about this and i am unsure if this is how i am gong to be at everything i do or am i still searching for that one true passion where i will be able to get into stuff end to end.
posted by gadget_gal at 2:31 AM on August 12, 2011

You might get something out of Refuse to Choose in terms of seeing your current way of doing things in a better light. It does sound to me though that you're being pretty hard on yourself and you think that you should be able to immerse yourself in things even when you don't really want or need to go down to that level.

For instance, I don't know how many projects or people you manage, but I am in a similar role and if I delved deeply into the code of all the projects I would (a) have no time left to manage and (b) alienate the developers who are experts in those areas. My job is to ask them questions about their decisions and move obstacles to development, not decide on which algorithm to choose. I understand the impulse you're talking about as I have it myself, but I wouldn't be doing anyone a favour by acting on it.
posted by crocomancer at 4:38 AM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

sorry Refuse to Choose
posted by crocomancer at 4:38 AM on August 12, 2011

I find it really interesting that your question is so brief - "The tendency to not get into things in detail. See More." - and the very first response you get is an "ummmmm, could you go into a little more detail please?" The vibe I get from the question is that you are pretty sure we get the gist of your issue so you don't have to illustrate or elucidate much further.

Maybe that is at the heart of your struggle - that in some way or another, you believe that the gist of something is "good enough:" it's sufficient for the task at hand, sufficient to comprehend what you want to know, or sufficient to satisfy you in the moment. So maybe it's more about setting a different expectation for yourself - that hitting "good enough" is not the point.

A boss once told me that it wasn't really enough that I had figured out how to do a task - I should do it so many times that it became muscle memory, second nature - that would be mastery that would free up my thinking to the next level. Maybe detail isn't the issue here, it's mindfulness and being aware of the present - what are you doing at this moment? What does it feel like? How can you make this minute count?
posted by sestaaak at 8:03 AM on August 12, 2011 [4 favorites]

There are quite a few good and helpful suggestions here.

I have a similar thing. For me it's a few things: fear of failure, fear of recognition in general, a tendency to bail on a project as soon as it starts looking like actual work, and a heaping helping of self-doubt. So I protect myself by holding back.

And another thing, which hasn't been mentioned yet: we often think of that "one true passion" as an immutable truth, as if our ideal career were programmed into our DNA, and once we find that truth everything will be solved. I admit, often I dearly wish someone could look into my mind and authoritatively tell me what I should be doing with my life. We can get stuck waiting for that voice to call us, or stand forever at the fork of the road, afraid to go down the wrong path. But for most of us, there is no voice and no one path.

It takes a while to let go of this way of thinking, and I'm still working on it. It's like learning that Pluto is no longer considered a planet: you know the astronomers are right, but your solar system has always had nine planets.

Ultimately, the path you choose is irrelevant. You can even walk straight into the wilderness if you want. It's the forward motion that counts. Keep trying things, and when they stop becoming interesting and start becoming boring or intimidating, make it your goal to wade a little bit further into that discomfort. Doing something is almost always less scary than standing before it and dreading it.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:45 AM on August 12, 2011 [6 favorites]

Previously, somewhat related.
posted by peagood at 10:41 AM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: @sestaak - i think you are onto something. I am constantly assuming everyone should just magically get what I am saying and all i give is a gist. Worse if they don't get the point with my gist, i judge their intelligence. I will pay attention to this more closely.

@metroid baby - What you say is resonating.
posted by gadget_gal at 11:22 AM on August 12, 2011

I've always heard this is a psychological thing where you're maintaining ego/self regard by not throwing yourself fully into a single thing and risking failure or (perception-wise) limiting your options. If you go a little bit into all sorts of things it helps maintain a narrative that you _could_ be great at stuff, the possibility remains open, and for any number of things. As soon as you try really hard at one thing and maybe don't become the best ever at it you've shattered that illusion AND made your field of view for possible greatness seem narrower. I'm not saying it's accurate, but it's a subconscious way of dealing with it.
posted by ifjuly at 11:40 AM on August 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

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