So, here we are at the final step in my “boom and bust” cycle. We have gone all the way from deciding to start a new project, through burning out and crashing, and we have now reached Step 6: Re-Evaluate and Repeat.
For me, this marks a great step in this project, because for the past week, I have been struggling to bring myself to finish this article, and thus the series, on time. In fact, I am writing this the day before release. This is demonstrative of the issues raised thus far in the series, such as burning out. It was a close call, but this is the final step, leaving only one more article in the series – the conclusion – left to do.
But for now, it is back to the final step – Re-Evaluate and Repeat. This step comes about because of a few different factors in the human psyche. These factors tend to help us recover, but in turn, also often trap us into performing the same tasks over and over. This is what makes the “boom and bust” process a cycle.
The main issue here is that the majority of these factors are actually positive, and breaking them here can actually be detrimental to your well-being. It is not recommended that the cycle is actually broken here – instead, by hopefully understanding how they work, you can make the most of them, and set yourself up for greater success next time round.
Picking Up The Pieces
The first factor that we must consider is that we come with an in-built recovery system, which helps us deal with the effects of any “crash” that we experience. The principle is simple in theory – the whole point of “crashing” as a survival instinct is to engage our “fight or flight” process to escape stress causing situations. This often results in desperate behaviours that can cause immense damage to ourselves and those around us. As such, it is often a risky, but vital, gambit to save ourselves.
As such, the after effects of such actions often leaves a lot of psychological debris, including additional stress, for everyone involved. However, should such actions be successful, and the situation is escaped, we will often find ourselves in a situation where we can take stock of the situation, repair the damage, and go on to rebuild our lives.
The Cycle of Knowledge
The opportunity and act of rebuilding allows for us to re-evaluate our circumstances and look for opportunities for improvement and refinement. This is all part of what is called the Cycle of Knowledge, a common cycle that allows us to understand our work, recognise patterns, and adapt to new situations. It is this process that allows us to predict the future to a certain extent, simply by looking at what has occurred in the past.
The Cycle of Knowledge has three steps, and represents a process of asking questions, answering those questions, and then implementing those answers. Once this is done, the cycle repeats as more questions are asked based on those answers.
Although the Cycle of Knowledge is a key part of the majority of academic study, and includes a large focus on established methodology as part of the process, we do also tend to follow a more primitive version of this cycle intuitively so that we can learn from our own experiences. This occurs at a subconscious level for the most part, so we are not always aware of this process as it goes, although many people may consciously engage in this process as part of rational thinking.
The first step in the Cycle of Knowledge is always based around formulating and asking the questions that we seek answers to. The questions themselves are important, because they will shape our thinking in a profound way, often determining what types of answers we end up with. This is well understood in academics, and as such, questions are often specifically formulated, sometimes to the point of abstraction or uselessness.
For most people, the questions involved will often be things like “What just happened,” “Why did that happen,” “Will that happen again,” and so on. Such intuitive questions are often nebulous and unfocused, as we often assume and imply certain specifics to the questions that we simply don’t state.
In the context of Step 6 of the “boom and bust” cycle, the most common questions relate to the events leading up to the “crash” and the circumstances that followed. We often try to understand what just happened, and how to prevent it from happening again.
Once we have asked the questions, we will then look towards trying to discover the answers to those questions by gathering evidence. Deciding what counts as evidence is an important factor in many academic studies. As part of this process, and because of the specific nature of many academic questions, this step will also include making claims or hypotheses in order to prove or disprove.
One issue with this process of making claims, is that because the answer is typically formulated before the evidence is gathered, it can lead to some evidence being censured or dismissed, as we tend to use rationalisation of what we already believe to be true, instead of taking an unbiased approach.
We also tend to do this rationalisation intuitively, as we try to discover what happened in a way that can help preserve our often already damaged self-esteem. As such, we try to find reasons to absolve ourselves of blame, including trying to put the blame on others, while trying to portray ourselves in as positive a light as possible. In our minds, we are always the heroes, not the villains, regardless of our actions – simply because this is important for our own mental welfare.
In the context of Step 6, this will often revolve around trying to identify the true source of stress that caused the “crash” event, while underplaying how much our own stress tolerance has had to play in the affair. We tend to neglect looking at what we could have done better, simply because this would show us as being more fallible and fragile than we wish to believe ourselves to be.
The final step in the Cycle of Knowledge is to draw conclusions and find the answers to the questions that we asked in the first step. In order to do this, the evidence that we find will be looked at and interpreted in the context of the questions being asked, before being stated.
In academics, such conclusions are often simply whether the evidence backs up or refutes a previously stated hypothesis. This makes it easier to answer complex questions, but tends to carry to baggage that the evidence and the conclusions can be tainted by the perceptions, intents, and beliefs of the academics involved.
Intuitively, the same thing can often occur with us on a more innate level, as we have the tendency to accept or reject conclusions depending upon whether or not they support our own self-narrative of events. This is because such self-narrative is often based on our own previous experiences, conclusions, and principles. it is rare that we will have the mental strength and self-confidence to expose ourselves to the stresses of cognitive dissonance resulting from having conflicting beliefs.
In the context of Step 6, most individuals are extremely fragile after the trauma of a “crash” event, and as such, are going to favour drawing conclusions that allow them to reinforce their own principles rather than challenge them. Unfortunately, this can lead to returning to the same principles that resulted in the “crash” event in the first place, simply because the individuals will often fail to identify any means of self-improvements, simply because they downplay their own personal responsibility in the events to absolve themselves of guilt.
The ultimate aim of the Cycle of Knowledge, however, is to find answers so that we can move on, and eventually improve ourselves. This motive is a fundamental motive referred to as self-actualisation, and is portrayed as the ultimate need in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. In many ways, all the other needs identified can be seen as a form of self-actualisation, as we seek to move from a position of perceived weakness to a position of perceived strength.
In moving to a position of perceived strength, we can then look towards challenging our own weaker beliefs, to slowly and surely improve our own mental well-being. As such, we can steadily increase our own stress tolerances, and better cope with challenges to our own psyche that might otherwise cause trauma, and potentially a “crash” event.
It is this desire to improve ourselves that often results in the “boom and bust” cycle actually being a cycle, as actions to improve ourselves are often at the heart of our decision making processes when we decide to start or continue new projects, and the scope of them.
As stated previously, it is detrimental to try and break the cycle at this point. This is because the only way to break the cycle here is not to try and improve yourself, not to recover, and to leave yourself vulnerable. While we all take different times to recover from various types of trauma, leaving ourselves vulnerable to more trauma will actually make us more likely to engage in future, potentially more self-destructive, “crash” events.
In many ways, failing to recover is indicative not of successfully breaking the cycle here, but rather that the individual is still undergoing their “crash” event, and has such has yet to reach this stage of the “boom and bust” cycle.
However, this issue with breaking the cycle at Step 6 doesn’t necessarily leave you helplessly doomed to repeat the cycle again. Instead, positive actions here can help establish a strong foundation from which to challenge and hopefully break the cycle next time round.
First and foremost, acceptance of your role in the events of your crash is important, as it allows you to examine what you might be able to change in the future. Don’t dwell on the blame, however, but instead understand and accept that you acted the best you can under the circumstances. Ultimately, the “crash” should be considered a learning experience, from which you can look towards improving in the future.
Focus on your recovery until you feel that you are strong enough to move on to actual self-improvement. Don’t push yourself too hard at this stage. Slow progress is better than no progress, and there will be time to challenge yourself later on. Accept that people take differing amounts of time to recover, simply because the impact of trauma is different for each individual.
When you feel up to it, you can begin to look at what happened and try to find areas for self-improvement. Were there warning signs that you missed? Could you have acted and reacted differently? Were there any misunderstandings or principles that held you back from taking more appropriate action? When asking these questions, try to be as open and honest with yourself as you can, and only tackle questions that you feel capable of dealing with.
In addition, remember that you are yourself now, looking back at who you were then – and as such, try not to be overly critical of yourself. You possess new knowledge and new experiences compared to what you had then, simply by virtue of going through such “crash” events.
Focus purely on what you can do better next time, should the “boom and bust” cycle occur, as opposed to what you should have done better last time. You can’t change the past, but you can change the future, and that is done by learning in the present.
Ultimately, you should focus on moving on with your life. While it may be tempting to reassess and evaluate what happened, you must remember that you must decide to implement and actually carry out any conclusions that you have drawn to move on. Don’t let fear hold you back.
It can be difficult to move on, particularly if you feel that you are doomed to repeat your past mistakes over and over. But it should be understood that the alternative is not to move on, and to remain fragile and vulnerable.
How you move on is important however. Perhaps there was a flaw in your set up which undermined you to the point that you crashed? Perhaps you tackled projects that you were ill-suited or unprepared for? Perhaps you are driven by desires that are unrealistic and doomed to failure?
If so, none of these should prevent you from moving on, but instead could be used to identify future potential issues and avoid tackling challenges which you are incapable of at this time. It may even be the case that you should move on to a period of recovery, reflection, and reinvention, to prepare yourself for the possibility of having to challenge your own principles and mindset, in a more controlled manner.
My Approach – Past and Present
My approach at this step has always been very haphazard. In the past, I have always taken varying times to recover from my “crash” events, ranging from hours or days, to weeks and months at a time. Quite often part of my “crash” will include a vow to “never return” only to repeat the same thing at some later date.
While I do learn from my experiences, and as such I tend to progress that little bit further each time, I ultimately end up repeating the same mistakes, going through the same processes, and resulting in the same “crashes.”
A big part of this involves the fact that I have an innate desire to prove myself as being a Games Designer, largely driven out of a desire to prove my worth to myself and others.
Challenging this central concept is difficult for me, but it may be time that I looked at this in detail. I am driven by what it means to be a Games Designer, but this is largely based on my own interpretation of what a Games Designer actually is. Might it be that there is some flaw in this interpretation that is bringing about my repeated failures?
Taking this series as an example, this series has NOT been about Games Design. Anyone reading this series wouldn’t think that I am a Games Designer, if I didn’t keep mentioning it. Instead, it features a lot of social-psychology and self-understanding, with some very general counselling advice. In general, these articles ask more questions than they answer, as they explore the ideas of questioning ourselves as a means of learning and understanding our own place in the various arenas of life.
Does this mean that I am wasting my time looking to prove myself as a Games Designer, when I could look towards some other avenue to prove my self worth? Maybe.
Alternatively, it could be that my very desire to prove myself is at fault here. I try to prove myself because I feel worthless, but perhaps this is because I do not fully understand my worth in terms of myself and others. I don’t think that I have ever asked myself if, how and why others value me, or indeed what other people seem to value in others.
These are some very fundamental questions, and answering them could be interesting projects, just as this one has been. I am pretty sure that I am not the only person that seeks answers to such questions, and it may be useful if I can show my processes with others.
Finally, as I asked above, could it be that I simply don’t understand what a Games Designer is, and that my own interpretation of the concept is flawed and needs to be challenged? Perhaps I just need to start asking what people think being a Games Designer is all about, and see if there are any flaws in my interpretation that can be fixed and allow me to better weather, if not avoid, any future incidents of the dreaded “boom and bust” cycle?
Lots of questions to consider here, and I won’t get into the answers here just yet. This was the final step of the “boom and bust” cycle, leaving the conclusion for next week as the final article in this series. There I will finally go over what we have learnt, and maybe share a few of the answers that I currently have.
So, until next week, stay AWESOME!