Dabblers and Perfectionism

One of my current “overthink” topics is the distinction between the dabbler and the exclusionary. Or the “jack of all trades, master of none” versus the “master of one”.

It occurred to me that perhaps the dabbler mindset is yet another camouflaged appearance of perfectionism.

I definitely fall into the dabbler category. One of the things I’ve noticed over the years as I’ve made an effort to be more aware of myself (a byproduct of meditation, no doubt) is that I like to learn how something unfamiliar or intimidating works, then immediately lose interest after gaining the slightest bit of proficiency.

Magic Tricks vs. Magicians

A good friend who shares this struggle made the analogy of losing interest in the magic trick once you know how it works, and it fits perfectly.

Some learn the trick and want to not only master it, but perform it for others. Us dabblers learn the illusion, and lose interest.

It can be a real struggle to know you’re going to lose interest in anything you follow through on. It makes it tempting to savor the expectation for as long as possible. Of course the problem there, as I’ve come to learn, is that you can have goals that are incongruent to your identity — in other words, you can imagine you’d like something and spend a long time imagining yourself doing it, but find once you’ve followed through that you didn’t enjoy it as much as you thought you would.

The Dabbler Mindset, Introverts & Dopamine

I assumed it had something to do with being on the introvert side of the spectrum, and that somehow dopamine played a factor — introvert dopamine reservoirs mostly filled, the novelty factor wears off faster, thus disinterest kicks in quickly.

But recently I wondered if perhaps it was another sneaky entrance of my old foe, perfectionism.

Dabbling and Perfectionism?

It occurred to me that gaining basic proficiency in lots of areas could be used as a mental self-excuse to not be exceptional at any one of them. Or further, that a lack of success in any of the areas you wish you were more successful in could be excused away due to your “wide-ranging interests”.

One common trait I see with successful people is that they have that exclusionary mindset. They can be obsessed and focused on just one topic, as mundane or as grandiose as it may be.

YouTube videos are overflowing with people who can be obsessed with one small niche of an already-niche topic, and find a seemingly inexhaustible supply of interest, motivation, persistence and drive to wring every last perspective out of their topic of choice.

I find it hard to maintain that level of attention and effort event to the things that I find most interesting. I’m envious, to say the least.

These days, I’m looking less for ways to change how I am and, and more towards ways I can capitalize on my nature. I may not be able to maintain interest in one topic for very long, but I’m damn good at getting interested and soon after jaded by a lot of various disciplines, interests, hobbies and skills.

Is the dabbler mindset a symptom of perfectionism? It’s an idea that only just occurred to me, so I’ve not had time to really think this one through. But it really struck a chord when the concept flashed into my mind. I have a suspicion my old enemy has been lurking around in an especially effective disguise.

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