Metaphor hunting

Whilst reading this week, I’ve noticed a trend emerging amongst authors whose work I admire. Being in the process of writing a book myself, I’m thinking it might be good to follow their example. Nothing like a good bandwagon to jump on, after all.

I noticed the trend first in Atomic Habits: An easy and proven way to build good habits and break bad ones by James Clear. (It’s a great book on the subject of all things habit-related, by the way. Would recommend if you like that kind of thing.)

Early in the book, Clear talks about about the process of learning new behaviours – specifically the tendency for our progress not to follow a clear, predictable trajectory. He describes it as being like compound interest, in that the outcomes appear small at first but grow more dramatically the longer we continue. As a result of this slow start, there’s a bit near the beginning of the process where we may feel disheartened because the amount of effort we’re putting in doesn’t appear to be paying off. He describes this phase as the ‘Valley of Disappointment’.

“…habits often appear to make no difference until you cross a critical threshold and unlock a new level of performance. In the early and middle stages of any quest, there is often a Valley of Disappointment. You expect to make progress in a linear fashion and it’s frustrating how ineffective changes can seem during the first days, weeks, and even months. It doesn’t feel like you are going anywhere. It’s a hallmark of any compounding process: the most powerful outcomes are delayed.”

Then, whilst reading Moonwalking with Einstein: The art and science of remembering everything by Joshua Foer, I noticed another example.

Foer introduces the concept of the ‘OK plateau’:

“…the point we reach when we decide we’re good enough at a task, turn on autopilot, and stop improving.”

So I’m thinking – in order to be a proper non-fiction author, I should probably come up with a geographically-themed metaphor of my own. However, apart from a few bits about glaciation, I don’t remember a great deal from school. (Which is concerning on all sorts of levels, but that’s another discussion.)

Anyway, it’s ok. I’ve discovered the Wikipedia Glossary of geography terms page. It lists so many things I’ve never even heard of – cryoturbation, inselbergs and monadnocks, the pole of inaccessibility – it’s been a wonderful rabbit hole to explore. (Rabbit hole isn’t in the glossary, just in case you were wondering.)

So if in a week or two I mention that recording interviews for the new Adventures in Behaviour Change podcast has led me to a ‘hillock of delight’, please just bear with me. It might take a little while to get the hang of learning this stuff. Progress isn’t linear, after all.