I have a bad case of the itchy feet. Metaphorically speaking, of course! It’s not like I have a fungus or anything.
It happens whenever things are going too well, if there is such a thing. It happens when I’m not struggling with self-improvement, or when I’m not striving towards a big goal. I start craving change. I get the desire to do something for its own sake, or the urge to burn perfectly fine things down just to start over. When I refrain, like a responsible adult, my feet start itching.
Life has been very good to me, so I’ve gotten used to this feeling. Over the years, I’ve learned to distract myself: I let myself wander or start a new project that seems interesting. Whatever I choose, it always has to be something new and shiny.
Because of this, itchy feet have ended up being a type of creative self-sabotage. I get pretty good at a lot of things, but never great. Because once I start getting competent at something, I’m no longer struggling. So my feet start itching, and I give up and move on to something new instead.
I’ve tried to change this for my whole life, but it’s still here. It flared up again when I realized that I’ve been writing this blog for a year. But after this latest breakout, I started to wonder if it’s an entirely negative thing. If I can’t change it, I'm determined to find something positive about it.
So what is it good for? Not motivation. It feels like motivation when I start a new project because of my itchy feet, but I’ve noticed that projects I feel pushed into by negative pressure tend to fade out. I flake on them, or give them a few days’ work before dropping them and moving on to something else. It’s only projects that I feel pulled into because I’m excited about them that stick around in the long run.
Itchy feet don’t make me happy either. Whenever things aren’t going well I get restless, and that’s not a good recipe for contentment.
I think it may be a form of procrastination. Whenever I get itchy feet, that’s my brain trying to avoid something. This may sound awful, but really it’s a big flashing neon sign pointing at what I should be working on. And that’s actually really valuable.
My brain is telling me that I’ve slowed down on something really important. And I get the “slowed down” part of the message and rush to do something—anything—that causes change quickly, instead of working on the actual problem.
Have you ever been given the advice to do what scares you?
I’ve always thought that phrase was kind of dumb. I’m scared of plenty of things, some sensible and some irrational and petty. I often think it’s easier to do something scary-because-it’s-actually-dangerous rather than something scary-because-it’s-embarrassing, so taking this advice at face value would likely be more harmful than helpful.
But I have a new phrase that I think works much better: do what makes you itch. You know, that uncomfortable, avoiding it because it’s hard, do anything else feeling. What are you avoiding? Do that. Your brain has sensed that it’s worthwhile enough to be bothersome.
It’s not scary. You don’t have to be brave. But it is difficult. Really, really difficult. And I can’t always do it: I still have to distract myself with shiny things when I get restless.
But now I’ll also keep moving forward on the hard things I really care about. You guys are going to be stuck with this blog for a long time, because now I don’t wonder if something is “good enough” to give up on, no matter how itchy my feet get.