I don’t see anything wrong with being obsessive, considering that you’re in control of your obsession.
But then, is obsession something that can be contained?
It’s more of an intrinsic action, an involuntary response, a domination of your being, pertaining to an idea… right?
Well here’s my thought: we have the ability to obsess on purpose. There are obsessions we consciously choose to be fanatic about. So then, is there a way to use obsession, directed on purpose, to achieve something?
I have an obsession with the idea of being Iron-Man, or Iron-Man-like. Iron-Man-adjacent?
More specifically, Tony Stark’s approach to genius is what I’m after. The undeniable way he goes about creating iteration-after-iteration of his wonderful suit. The MK series, the Extremis armor, War Machine.
What keeps him creating?
A flaw in the design pipeline? A desire for perfection? A constant need for updates? An avidity to Barney Stinson’s One Rule (of many One Rules) that “NEW is ALWAYS better?”
Questioning this made me realize: the question is the answer!
I’ll get to that down the page, but right now, let’s take a look at the two types of obsession I’ve found:
Magnetic — things you are attracted to. Hats. Bobbleheads. Portable USB storage devices. Playboy lifestyle.
Directed — things you are consciously aware of that take your time, energy, and focus, such as a lingering need to socialize or an answer to a mind-boggling/numbing question; or a way to turn that wooden snake puzzle back into a cube–I’ve found two possibilities on my quest.
Since I’m mostly going to be discussing “directed obsession” I would like to chime in on the former type because it’s important in understanding yourself.
The things you gravitate to tell a lot about who you are and understanding these obsessions will move you forward in a direction that mean something to you.
Finding yourself in a bookstore reading mostly graphic novels can mean you enjoy the fantastic, or illustrative arts, thought-provoking stories, or a need to escape reality.
It will be these things that will influence your future decisions such as a career possibility, or maybe creating something valuable for mankind, or establishing a movement for a belief you hold close to the chest.
Directed Obsession, on the other hand, is a compelling need. It’s something that’s too painful to just ignore, something that you absolutely feel deep down you need closure with, in order to live out the rest of your life in complete harmony.
Understand, If it doesn’t hurt, it’s not an obsession. It’s an inquiry. And inquiries are equivalent to dabbling. To the half-assers, I’m not talking to you then. We go FULL-ASS all the way.
Now, how do we use Directed Obsession?
Well, how do we direct an obsession in the first place?
Back to what I said earlier: the question is the answer!
When you ask yourself a question, you’re also directing your focus. And I have a certain outlook when it comes to focus: you get what you focus on.
It’s not guaranteed, but like most things I’ve attained in my short life through obsessive-focus–breakdancing skills, drawing technique, graphic design knowledge–I can pretty much put it in the common-sense category.
Your question associated with your gut-wrenching obsession can be anything, although I’ve found the most important question is one that drives you. Not a short, easily-attainable-with-a-Google-search question, but one you will come back to time and time again.
It’s a broad question. A somewhat general one. It’s the question that drives all other curiosities to seek answers for.
I’ll call this your DRIVING QUESTION.
I’ve had one driving question for the last ten or so years: How can I utilize more of my brain?
It’s that Driving Question that’s lead me into many areas of human psychology and achievement; not as a passing interest, but as a yearning desire to figure out the answer.
A Driving Question will take you on a journey. That is its function.
From that question will manifest smaller, more definite-answerable questions in order to a.) ACHIEVE, b.) DEVELOP, or c.) ACQUIRE …and possibly more verbs.
In the end, only you can decide when that Driving Question has been answered. What metric you will need in order to feel complete.
I believe it took Albert Einstein (1879-1955) roughly ten years of mulling over incongruent concepts in Newtonian physics–a puzzle or thought experiment for him, or can we say obsession?–to propose and publish his theory of Simple Relativity.
So take your obsessions and run with it.
Be aware of what you’re attracted to. What gives you joy. What you move toward consistently. Take note of any pain points in those things you gravitate to.
You don’t really know what you want until you’ve discovered it, but when you do, get obsessed with it. It shouldn’t be too hard. Then, point it in a worthwhile direction. Figure out the question you need to drive you toward an answer.
And when you run out of gas, walk it. If you can’t walk, crawl. The only thing that should stop you is death. Morbid, yes. But you get my point. It’s called obsession.
Balance is overrated anyway. But that’s a different post altogether.
Photo by Gordon Tarpley | IMAG1554 Warmachine – Flickr