I was speaking with a young friend yesterday, who was feeling overwhelmed with the possibilities that he needed to sort through regarding his career. He’s not alone in his sense of overwhelm: it’s epidemic among young people today.
When I was that age, I had too few choices, especially as a young woman. I was expected to marry and have kids. I was not expected to work for long. In fact that idea was actively discouraged. It felt like too much the other way for me… and for a lot of women my age, because it sparked the Women’s Liberation movement.
It did something else as well: it generated a deep desire in me to make sure the next generations weren’t left with the same frustration. As a result, my generation gave our children many, many things to choose from, and told them they could do anything they wanted to do – that anything was possible.
I’m not saying my generation was to blame for today’s young person’s dilemma. But I am saying we helped this swing. In a way, it’s the other side of the same coin I’d experienced: too few choices box you in and generate anxiety; too many choices overwhelm and generate anxiety.
What to do either way? Make your best judgment.
- Begin with taking a few breaths to ground you; then imagine making one choice and notice how it feels inside you. When I imagined being a stay-at-home mom, even though I knew I’d be a good mom, I felt lost and depressed. When I imagined learning and growing and becoming independent, I felt like my chest expanded. Decision made.
- Once you know which choices feel right and good, then weigh the plusses and minuses of each of those choices that are left. Do I stay and try and find a job where I am or do I move? If I stay, it’s less expensive, but there are also fewer opportunities; if I move, I’m away from friends and family, but the opportunities are greater. Which is more important to me?
So often we’re taught to begin with the plusses and minuses. But when we do that, we tend to ignore our own sense of what’s right for us emotionally and spiritually. I can’t tell you how often I’d end up in inner turmoil because my heart wanted one thing, and my head decided on another. I can also tell you that every time, when I chose my head over my heart, I always regretted it – it was all too often based on what others thought, not what I thought. But when I chose my heart over my head, in the sense of knowing what my spirit wanted and needed, I’ve never regretted my decision.
Quote of the Week
“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.”
― Margaret Mead
How I overcame decision paralysis
Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist. To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .