Can’t Settle On A Path in Life?
This might be why + what you can do about it
If you find yourself constantly hopping from one thing to the other — maybe that’s a job, educational program or career path — chances are high that you might be falling victim to the Dunning-Kruger Effect.
It maps out the average trajectory of a person's COMPETENCE relative to their CONFIDENCE.
You’ll notice it follows an interesting trend:
In the beginning, you’re totally ignorant about what you’re trying to do. You have little or no knowledge of this new venture you’re embarking on, so your mind naturally fills in the blanks with optimism.
As you continue to learn about this new thing, you’re experiencing the thrill of something new and quickly finding easy momentum — as in going from zero views to one, nothing produced to something produced, or no improvement to quick gains.
People that know me know that I fell victim to this mental bias many times.
You think that things are always going to be this way, that progress is going to continue at this rate, and that success is right around the corner.
And then, inevitably, something happens.
You hit the first hurdle, or something no longer meets your expectations. You stumble, and down you fall — from the peak of MOUNT STUPID to the VALLEY OF DESPAIR.
And it’s right around there where most people decide “nope, not for me”.
They realize how long something is actually going to take, or how much effort is going to be required, and all of a sudden, all the other options start to seem a lot more attractive…
(I’m internally groaning as I write this now because I’m remembering how many times I got to the valley of despair and then quit when it came to jobs/careers)
From the valley of despair, you now have a more “realistic” expectation of what’s going to happen on this path you’ve chosen…
And boy, does it look tough…
The other options seem so much more attractive because, suddenly, you’re ignorant again. You don’t know anything about the other paths, and your mind is filling in the blanks with more optimism and delusion. (Some of that is awesome and helpful, but too much will work against you).
And it’s from within the valley of despair, after you’ve faced those first significant challenges that you get to decide if you’re forging on or turning back and trying something else.
If you forge on, your confidence will slowly come back as you continue to improve. Now your confidence will be built on experience, not delusion.
If you turn back, you will get the rush of starting something new again, and you can definitely expect a subsequent optimism/confidence crash.
And this is where I turn to you…
What I learned (the hard way) was that the ONLY way you will persist through that valley of despair when it inevitably hits is if there is something else, other than ego (AKA money, fame, fortune, lifestyle) driving you forward.
Some people will say, “just keep with it through the hard times”. You know, you’ve heard it before: “hustle, productivity, discipline” etc.
But I say, if you have to hype yourself up to continue doing something, you’re probably doing the wrong thing. If the valley of despair makes you want to quit, then, really, you probably SHOULD quit.
However, if what you’re doing, or what you’re after, is so compelling to you that it doesn’t matter how bad you are at it now, that you’re committed to doing whatever it takes to succeed
(“and no hours, nor amount of labour, nor amount money would deter me from giving the best that there was in me” is the C. Sanders quote I start my book with)…
Then the valley of despair will just be a temporary blip on your radar. It won’t phase you.
Maybe this sounds too good to be true. Maybe this sounds like a fairy tale. But keep in mind, I am speaking from first-hand experience.
And what I know is that:
There is a path for you out there calling you. It wants you.
And your job is not to #hustle and #discipline yourself, your job is to fall in love with it. Your job is to fall in love with the path, the purpose, and the journey so much that your level of “delusion” will remain unaltered as you progress.
Even the valley of despair will feel right, and safe, and happy. Quitting will seem crazy. There will only be one option, and that’s onwards.
And when that happens, that’s when you can reach the SLOPE OF ENLIGHTENMENT and finally the PLATEAU OF SUSTAINABILITY (A.K.A. success in your chosen endeavor, whatever you define as success.)
So that is my take on the Dunning-Kruger Effect.
I’ve seen so many people talk about this with their central thesis being “don’t quit too soon”. But I say.. nahh.
You should quit if you want to. And, in fact, you should keep quitting each and every time you hit the valley of despair if that’s what you really want.
Because, seriously, if you’re dreams are easy to give up on the first time you get your confidence rocked, you probably need bigger, better dreams.
The hustle and the productivity can come after the love. But the love is non-negotiable.
The path is already calling you. All you have to do is listen.
I can teach you how to listen. Contact me if you’re interested.
P.S. if this article applies to you, take a moment to congratulate yourself for even trying in the first place. Most people will do nothing about their dreams, so if you’ve started and quit, you’re already better off than most. ✌️