I met up with a friend this morning for a run. She’s at a point in her life where she wants to make some changes and she has many options open to her. Sounds good, right? Well, much like research has shown, too many options are simply too much for us to handle.
(Some find too many choices in online dating; personally, I loved the endless streams of men!:) )
My friend has been stationary for the last several months as she carefully weighs the pros and cons of each opportunity presented to her. To make the decision even more challenging, she keeps casting a wider and wider net and finding yet more possibilities.
Her mind is frantic. Yet she remains paralyzed by indecision. She has tentatively explored some of the options, yet is spread too thin to give any one choice her all.
After listening to her new proposals and plan de jour, I suggested that she needs to simply choose one path, invest in that one 100% for a set period of time and hold the other options in reserve if the chosen one ends up being a debacle. I went on to say that by not choosing one path, she was setting herself up for failure with all of the potentials because she couldn’t invest enough time and energy to succeed. Of course, that’s assuming she could even break her paralysis enough to move at all.
After I finished my short recommendation, I glanced over at her. Her stride had picked up, her shoulders settled back and down. She visibly looked lighter.
I remember that paralysis of infinite choices all too well. For a year, I existed with a future full of untethered possibilities. I had given notice at my school and stated my intention to leave my friend’s home. I was dating but, as yet, had not met anyone that I felt particularly pulled to. I was unhappy with my career and exploring the idea of switching tracks. I knew I needed to leave the area where I was living, but apart from a vague desire to relocate to Seattle, had not made any concrete plans.
As the end of the school year drew ever closer, I knew that my endless cyclical thoughts needed to become some sort of reality. I decided to start by deciding to remain in education and set about applying to jobs in the Seattle area. My endless and open choices became targeted resumes and cover letters, organized with my inevitable spreadsheets. Even though the future was still entirely unknown, I felt calmer and somehow more in control once I had a task to tackle.
It’s funny how just the illusion of control can bring some peace. The jobs in Seattle never materialized and the spreadsheet was abandoned soon after I started dating Brock. But it served its purpose. It became a focal point, a light showing me a path when I was busy spinning in the dark. The efforts were not wasted; the decisions and resumes were simply applied in a new arena where they turned into a new job.
As for my friend, I don’t know what our next run will reveal but I hope that she is able to break from the immobilization of too many and too much. I hope that the feeling of being out of control and overwhelmed can be replaced with a feeling of determination and intention.
As for me, I’ve decided to practice what I preach. I was feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of paint chips I had amassed to pick colors for the new house. I am beginning by limiting my choices and then selecting from that smaller pool. And then I just may decide to take a nap:)