The Itch to Create - Part 1: Getting Clarity on Why

You’ve found yourself in a very familiar spot. It’s happened to you many times before, and you suspect it’ll happen to you again in the future.

You’ve tried pushing back, but it keeps coming back to visit you.

Your itch came back. You’re itching to create something new. A new product. A new business idea. A prototype, a design, a concept or an invention.


So you set out to clarify why you’d even consider pursuing your idea.

You’ve tried the rational approach to finding your why. But you realize there’s something else in the way: your excitement is what’s in the way, and it clouds your ability to use reason.

That excitement makes you see things that don’t really exist. It makes you conclude things that you wouldn’t be concluding otherwise. You’ve become subject to your excitement, you’ve acted in reaction to the presence of your new inspiration.

So, what to do?

Mental Models: The Lenses that Colour Your Perception

Beneath the thoughts that are going through your mind, there are lenses that colour how you receive the information that comes in. Those lenses help you parse the input and make sense of it.

These lenses are known under different names: biases, conclusions, prejudices, convictions, oppositions, beliefs or assumptions.

Like others, I call those “mental models”. You know there’s a mental model at work when you find yourself agitated, defensive, taken by an inspiration, short tempered, engrossed in a thought, or especially when you find yourself being reactive.

And, of course, you’ll find there are mental models at work when you find yourself excited about an idea. Let’s dig those out.

“Unless”, “Surely”, “Either”…

When you spot words in your mind like “unless”, “surely” or “either”, you know they’re part of a longer statement describing a mental model.

Unless I make my idea become a reality, surely I’ll miss an opportunity.

Either I prioritize this bold idea, or I prioritize the safe status quo. There’s no middle ground.

Surely I won’t finish the project this time around, since I’ve quit so many ideas in the past.

Unless I find a viable market, I shouldn’t entertain the thought of pursuing my idea.

The Practice of Digging Up and Rewriting Mental Models

To get your excitement out of the way, consider turning to digging up your mental models, and then rewriting them. This, to me, is the essential first step to getting clarity on why I’m doing something.

How to rewrite a mental model? It’s a little like answering yourself as if you’re the helpful coach. And, use the word “Maybe” as often as you need to.

Unless I make my idea become a reality, surely I’ll miss an opportunity.

  • Maybe.
  • Maybe there are going to be other opportunities in the future.
  • And yet, maybe this is a great time to pursue my idea.

At this point, you’ll feel like your excitement has been challenged, like its hold has been loosened. Let’s continue.

Either I prioritize this bold idea, or I prioritize the safe status quo. There’s no middle ground.

  • Maybe!

That’s interesting. There’s an opposition here, and either/or. Is there any way I can rewrite that to use a “both/and”?

  • Maybe there’s a different way of looking at this idea, a third way.
  • There might be a way to prioritize some other thing. This other thing would encompass both my new bold idea, and the safety of my current situation.

Surely I won’t finish the project this time around, since I’ve quit so many ideas in the past.

  • If I find a way to make this idea not compete against my other work, and instead find a way to connect them to a similar purpose, I should be able to find a version that I can publish quickly.

Unless I find a viable market, I shouldn’t entertain the thought of pursuing my idea.

  • Probably! Or maybe this project isn’t even about putting it on the market. Maybe it’s about sharpening a skill.

And voilà. At this point, you’re left with a much better sense of why you’d pursue the idea. All it cost you was a few minutes of your time to write down, and then to rewrite, your mental models.

Next time, in Part 2, we’ll look at another rewriting technique I use. It’s about rewriting how you view the project ending, in order to find the way to make your project inevitable. The technique is called “have-done lists”.

Stay Sharp!



@pascallaliberte

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