Abundance of Choices
One of my favorite self-help authors is Bruce Feiler. In his latest book, The Search, author Bruce Feiler uncovers more magic to help people move past what he has termed “life quakes.” Life quakes are life events that are hugely disruptive human experiences…big life changes, whether they happen “to us” or we go through them by choice. His first book was called Life Is in the Transitions - what happens and how do people move through major transitions, many of which sometimes happen back-to-back. Death. Divorce. Lost jobs. Household moves. When you move through big changes in life, you also have power to shift among the dimensions that make up “you,” and revisit and recalibrate what gives you meaning. Going through such changes presents you with choices. But what happens when you have too many choices? Or, when it feels like you have too many choices? Here is a link to the podcast (edited for length: still, it's 45 minutes!). In past podcasts, my thought partner in Los Angeles and blogtalk host Ms. Linda McShan and I have talked about the anxiety, dissatisfaction, and regret that can come from the decisions we make or have to make. Or, that we don’t make! If you have no options in life–it is extremely detrimental, right? Most of us agree on that. But what if you have too many options? Is that a problem? It may sound counterintuitive, but having too many options can, at the worst, make you miserable. At the very least, it can make you feel confused. Choice overload can make you question the decisions you make before you even make them: it can set you up for unrealistically high expectations, OR it can make you blame yourself for any and all “failures.” “If it’s a success, I’ve got everything riding on it.” “Or, if it’s a failure, I crashed and burned.” (Side note: I don’t like to look at them as failures; I like to look at them as life experiences without negative judgment and without second guessing yourself and without having regret.) My dad used to call this indecisiveness “dithering.” Overthinking. Delays. When you have “choice overload,” are there skills you can learn that will help? Making informed and timely decisions is an important life skill that impacts all aspects of your life. It is an important skill for productivity, leadership, and success both in your professional and personal, and community-facing, life. What are some tools we can use to help if we need to navigate our way through a big life change? In The Search, Feiler introduces what he calls the A, B, C’s of navigating through changes in order to move through a transition. It’s a construction of concepts that can help you make decisions. Where do you start with the A, B, C’s? A stands for “Agency” "Agency" refers to an individual's capacity to make choices, set goals, and take actions to influence their own life and the outcomes they desire. It is the sense of control and empowerment that a person feels in their life. Life coaches often help their clients develop a sense of agency, encouraging them to take responsibility for their decisions, actions, and the direction of their lives. Agency is what you “do.” B stands for “Belonging” "Belonging" refers to a sense of connection and inclusion in various aspects of a person's life, such as relationships, communities, or social groups. Belonginig by definition encompasses the feeling of being accepted, valued, acknowledged, and connected to others, which is a fundamental human need. Life coaches often address the concept of belonging as part of their coaching process because it plays a crucial role in an individual's overall well-being and personal growth. Belonging helps you feel connected and appreciated, accepted in the arenas you want to be involved in. C stands for “Cause” Related to community…what drives you, or something bigger than you? People that need you - something or someone you can be loyal to. A cause may help you bring about good “effect.” (Cause-effect, Ms. Linda points out.) Let’s explore each of these. I don’t know about you, but I think I am one of those people that goes through these type of filters all the time: I tend to welcome the change while I’m growing. I may be more motivated by change than by stability: I never want to look back on my life and regret that I didn’t try something or face my fears by pushing through them. The idea behind the A, B, C's that I've tried to conceptualize here, is to try to use these as filters, or weights, to help you measure which one of these motivators may be taking the lead in helping you make a decision. During the podcast, I gave my own example using the A, B, C filters regarding my recent discovery that I could be involved in my biological granddaughter’s life, with whom I have recently connected through her adoptive parents. The “C” plays a powerful role, probably closely followed by the “B,” and the “A” is driving me to ponder how I can make it happen more, or over the long term, now that this “life quake” has happened. — What about the “Who” in your decision making? Feiler also talks about the importance of including the views of others…he has a specific system he uses to describe how you can break this down. But I wanted to extract a couple of the points that really stood out for me. We never make decisions completely in isolation. Who are the people in your constellation, your unique “solar system,” and what are they trying to say to you? Whose values are embedded in you? For example, if your family is a critical component and let’s say the family values are “caring for others” and that is a powerful force in your decision-making, you may find that making a decision that is driven by this foundation sways you in a certain direction. Or, you may want to consider: Who needs you? I moved to Arkansas because I felt needed at this stage in my life by my family of origin. My mom, 89, and siblings in nearby states. And when I made a move, it formed a new family bond (I had lived in California for the past 31 years). I reconnected. Now, I have other young family members, progeny in fact, on the West Coast who may need me. Time will tell. Ms. Linda suggests that by my making the choice to move back to Arkansas, and my choice reaching out to my granddaughter’s adoptive parents, I am now causing an “effect” that means our families can be connected in a way they were not before! Who inspires you? This question can help open up other answers for you. Who drives you? What does that bring to mind? Is their help about their agenda? Or are they truly in support of mine? Who brings you closer to who you want to be? This is a tough question for me. I would encourage everyone to journal on this one! ______
I want to explore something I see in my life coaching practice that happens to people a lot. That’s the paralysis of choices. Sometimes if you have TOO MANY choices, you get paralyzed about making a decision. At. All. We grapple with the burden of judging the differences between good and bad choices! People FEAR making a “wrong” decision that can lead to feelings of regret. The fear of making a wrong decision may override your ability to make ANY decision. With all the options you have, how do you know which on is the “right” one? I hear people expressing such ideas as “if I make a choice that hurts, how long will I feel this way?” They may want to avoid that “hurt” period altogether. So, they stall. They don’t make a decision. Or, they may say or think: “if I make a choice that feels bad or feels wrong for me, will I be able to ‘undo’ it?” “Will I be able to reverse a choice?” And, how bad or how big of a choice (and set of decisions/pain) will THAT be? Now, what questions do we want to ask or leave listeners or viewers with today, to help them think about a particular set of decisions to make? Here are some questions from the coaching suite you may be able to use, if you are facing a decision about which you are uncertain or you fear may be the “wrong” (or “bad for you”) one for you. How do you personally feel about the potential consequences of this decision on your life and wellbeing?
What are the main reasons you’re considering this decision despite your reservations?
How do you envision this decision affecting your long term goals and happiness ?
Have you sought advice or opinions from trusted friends or family members about this decision, and if so, what were their perspectives?
What fears or concerns do you have about NOT making this decision ?
Can you describe the emotional or physical sensations you experience when thinking about this decision?
What values or priorities in your life might be compromised by making this choice ?
Are there any alternative options or compromises that could align better with your overall well-being?
What steps can you take to gain more clarity and confidence in your decision-making process? ______ Ms. Linda’s responses and closing comments:
Stay focused. A lot of people give advice that makes it better for them. You have to learn to decipher when people are advising based on their own agendas. Your body will tell you what’s going on. Pay attention to it. We talk about that “gut feeling:” this is real. Check the temperature before you make a big move or leap. Don’t be hasty to make a big change. When you come to a crossroads, I am of the opinion that it is worse to be paralyzed and not make a decision at all than it is to make a choice and live with the consequences and just “live through them.” There’s no way to avoid change, so you might as well learn the skills and embrace them: they will be required many times in your life. I hope our discussion today will help some people. As Carl, my dad, would say, it will help you to stop “dithering,” make a decision and work through it! Having decisions should not be a bad thing, it should be life affirming. It’s about consciously participating in your own life!