There comes a season in many people’s lives when their choices are no longer between things they want to do and things they don’t want to do but, rather, between a lot of things they want to do. The old, young days of good versus bad options have turned into good versus good options. And the choices can be paralyzing.
Everybody, though, has to make decisions.
If we don’t, our stories become muddled. I’m remembering that scene from my favorite movie Wonder Boys in which a distinguished writing professor is confronted by one of his own students about his newest novel.
“Professor Tripp,” his student begins, “Your new novel is quite beautiful. I mean it’s beautifully written and all but it’s long. I mean you go off on the genealogy of everybody’s horses. It’s like you didn’t make any decisions. You just included everything.”
The confrontation is more than just about his new novel– it’s about professor Tripp’s life.
He’s stopped making decisions.
He’s got so much good going on he no longer wants to decide which direction to go. So he goes nowhere.
It’s true when people have too many choices they freeze up. There’s some research about that phenomenon here. And it’s also true there are ways around this phenomenon. Essentially, when making important decisions, we have to limit our options.
But how do we do that?
For me, it comes down to making a decision and not looking back. When all the options are very good, I no longer spend time figuring out which option is the best. That would take too long because anything can be looked at from too many angles.
Remember, I’m not talking about good versus bad decisions; I’m talking about that point in which any direction you go is going to turn out great.
But this is tough.
Because what it means is letting go of the possibility of anything else.
Recently I had lunch with a good friend who is in his late thirties, very successful and good looking. He’s not married but would like to be some day. What’s his problem? From a personal perspective, he doesn’t have any. He will be a great husband for somebody some day.
But he struggles with one thing:
He has too many options.
There are too many women in his life and he can’t choose. He wants all of them and none of them at the same time.
The reality is, in order to have a great love story, he will have to say goodbye to all the other great options and just choose one. Otherwise, he will be stuck in permanent interview mode for life.
I think a lot of us deal with the same problem except in work, in friendships, in hobbies and so on. But aren’t we missing out on life by not making decisions? Perhaps it’s time to say goodbye to some of the good opportunities for the sake of the story. Perhaps it’s time to choose a direction and start moving.