Manufacturing Discontent: The destructive power of perfect mental obstacles

21 Jan

In his groundbreaking 1998 book Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of Mass Media, Noam Chomsky famously shed light on the counterintuitive role news media play in propping up existing political and power structures; not in holding them accountable.

In a similar vein, I’ve found the crazy among us tend to manufacture seemingly productive mental obstacles to reaching our more important goals; before accomplishing goal A, I need to tackle issue B. Before I submit my first job application in months, for example, I need to update my profiles on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Sounds logical in theory, but in practice these issues can quickly become dangerously counterproductive, especially when…

…they initially appear necessary to achieving the more important goal, but reveal themselves to be trivial or even irrelevant.

…they are truly manufactured, really existing only in our minds, as a means to procrastinate or avoid altogether the more important goal.

…we become focused on tackling the small issues to perfection, at the expense of accomplishing the important goal on time or even getting to it at all.

My social media example is guilty on all three fronts. Right now, my first job application is more important for going through the process and getting the first one out of the way than for getting the job itself.

I know for a fact that the hiring manager isn’t going to put any weight into social media profiles, if he even checks them. I’m certain that I’m the only one who’ll notice my changed profiles. And yet I’ve spent more time in recent days trying to perfect them than even looking at the more important job application.

Suffice to say I now feel, before I can play around with social media updates, I need to accomplish the more important goal of applying for a job.

Now the trick will be avoiding the same pitfalls with my résumé and cover letter, not letting perfection be the enemy of completion, not inventing tangential obstacles and just getting it done.

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