Today we’re talking about coping with indecisiveness, or what to do when you can’t decide what you want to do. And we’re answering a question that was sent in from Awesome K, who says:
Hi Nathalie. I really can’t seem to make up my mind. I have a dream /goal, and I seem to do all the right things, think all the right thoughts, but I always seem to have something niggling me in the background (like, “is this what you really want?”) Then the next thing you know I’m on a completely different wave length. For some reason I just cannot make a decision and stick to it. I am 49 years old — why is this soooo very hard for me? I always feel like I need to be in two places or like I’m missing out on something! Please help me I need advice.
First off, Awesome K, I just want you to know that you are so not alone in this. This is something that many, many people struggle with, and I think it all comes down to this mistaken belief that we have to choose one thing, over all others, to commit ourselves to for all eternity. For those who have a great many interests and talents, choosing just one thing is indescribably painful; in fact, it’s impossible. It can’t be done. And there’s the Catch-22 – we’ve been brought up in a society that says we have to choose our One Path or One Career or One Field, and that we have to concentrate on that one thing and let everything else go if we’re ever going to amount to anything and be “successful”.
But what if that’s a false belief? And whose definition of “successful” are we going with here? In my book, if you’re not happy, you’re not successful. Period. Seriously! Who decided on this whole “do one thing and one thing only” rule? It’s utterly ridiculous. And if other people want to live by that rule, that’s their business, but I see no reason why I, or anyone else, should have to if it doesn’t for us.
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But I want to be a pirate: my son’s story
Let me tell you a story. About a year ago my son, who was five at the time, was wandering around the house looking glum. And I asked him what was going on. And he looked at me so seriously, and he said “Mommy, I have a big problem.” I couldn’t think what “big problem” a five-year old could possibly have that would be so serious, but I said “OK. Want to tell me what your big problem is?” And he said “I can’t decide what I want to be when I grow up.” And I’m thinking – holy cow – you’re five, why are you worrying about this now? And I said “What do you mean?” And he said “I want to be a pirate and a race car driver and firefighter and an inventor and I don’t know which one to choose.” And he was really upset about this.
So I said “Hmm. Well, why do you need choose? Why can’t you be all of those things?”
And he looked at me in surprise for a moment, and then his whole face just lit up and he said “You mean I can be ALL of them?!” And I said “Sure! Why not? Maybe you can be a pirate with an office on your ship where you invent things while you’re sailing around the world, and maybe on weekends you can be a firefighter, and maybe you can be a race car driver for fun, when you feel like taking a break from sailing your pirate ship.” And he was so happy, and so relieved by the thought that he didn’t have to choose just one thing, that he could be all of them if that’s what he really wanted.
Step out of your mind-box
Now, obviously there is a big difference between a five-year old not knowing what he wants to be and a 49-year old not knowing what she wants to be. But the concept is the same. We get ourselves into this mindset that says we have to choose, and it can only be one thing. And that’s where we run into problems. Why choose? Why not do it all? The only rules that say you have to choose come from outside opinion; there are no laws that tell you have to choose or you’ll go to jail, for instance. There is nothing immoral or fundamentally wrong about NOT choosing. So why do we put ourselves into this box? Step out of the box. Don’t make yourself choose just one of those precious jewels – those wonderful talents and interests — that you’ve been blessed with. You have them all for a reason. Trust that if they’re in your heart, there is a way for all of them to happen for you.
So here’s what I want you to do. Get yourself a piece of paper and a pen, or just open up a new file on your computer. And I want you to write a list of everything – absolutely everything that you want to do or experience in your life, from the grandest, most extravagant, down to the smallest, most seemingly insignificant. Write it all down, so you have it saved and you know you won’t forget any of those important dreams and goals. This is going to go a long way to alleviating that fear of missing out on something because all the things you want to do will be accounted for, acknowledged, and validated.
Now, some might call this a “bucket list”, but I’ve never really liked that concept, myself. This whole idea of “do it now ‘cause someday you’re gonna die” is not motivating for me. It’s depressing, and – I don’t know, maybe it’s just because of all the people that I’ve lost over the years that have been important to me, but I just don’t find the concept of imminent death very helpful at all. I prefer to concentrate on the whole concept of “Oh my goodness, I have this whole incredible, amazing, awesome life to live! What kinds of incredible, amazing things and experiences can I fill it up with?” So I have an “Awesome List” rather than a “Bucket List” and that’s a much more motivating and energizing thought and focus for me. But pick whatever works for you.
Prioritizing: how to do it all
So, once you have that list, the next thing to do is to prioritize your list somewhat. If you’re the kind of person who has many interests and goals, then you’re going to have to get creative with your planning. You’re not just planning for one career or possibility, you’re creating a plan to encompass ALL the things you want to do. Realize that time is a constraint you’ll have to deal with – you CAN absolutely do it all, but you may not be able to do it all this year, for instance. Maybe this is the year you focus on photography and dog-training. And next year, you’re going to take night courses at a culinary school while you set up your online business to sell all those awesome pictures you took this year, and on weekends you’re going hire yourself out as a magician for kids’ parties. Be creative – just because other people’s schedules and lives are organized in one particular way does NOT mean that yours has to be the same.
If you have lots of different interests and goals you want to achieve, your life is NOT going to look the same as someone who has a regular 9-5, kind of existence. If you want to be a photojournalist and document your trip through the Serengeti, but you also want to be a ski instructor in the Swiss Alps, your time is going to be organized a lot differently. Maybe you spend 6 months doing your photojournalism, and maybe even create a film documentary while you’re at it (just for the fun of it), and then for the other 6 months of the year, you’re teaching people how to ski (and doing the post-production work on your Serengeti documentary in your off hours). Or maybe you do have a regular 9-5 job, but you’re writing your novel in the evenings and leading local ghost-walk tours on weekends.
With so many interests, you’re going to have to plan further ahead than most people. Where most people just plan for the year ahead, you’re going to have a fairly good idea of what you’re going to be doing two years, five years, ten years, even twenty years down the road. That doesn’t mean that those long-term plans, goals and dreams can’t change – expect that they will change as you change – but the point of those long-term plans is that you’re going to know that ALL the things you want to do in life are accounted for. You don’t need to choose, because you’re going to get around to all of them sooner or later.
Been there, done that!
So, I’m just going to tie this up by telling you my own story – because this whole inability to choose and feeling like I was drifting aimlessly was something that I struggled with for years. My background and experience is all over the board. I have university degrees in both cognitive science and education. I like web design, I like teaching, I like curriculum design, I like psychology, I want to write a best-seller, I love to cook and I want to write a recipe book, I love to sing and write music I want to put an album together, I want to go spend a month in England while still running my business, I want to get a really good layman’s grasp of quantum mechanics and string theory as it pertains to what I do. I have many, many interests, and many, many things that I’m very good at, and I love to keep busy and learn new things all the time.
With interests and talents that are as diverse as mine are, I struggled for years trying to decide what I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. I have had numerous jobs, in many different fields. I remember showing up for interview once and being asked to “explain my résumé” because I’d worked in so many different fields that they couldn’t figure out what I did, or what box I fit in. (I’ve worked with teachers, I’ve worked with trades, I’ve worked with lawyers, and I’ve worked with PhDs; I’ve been a corporate trainer, a communications specialist, a web designer, a software support specialist, an educational technology consultant, a technical writer, a classroom teach, I’ve worked in Human Resources, and I’ve been an executive assistant.) You name it, and I’ve probably done it at one point or another.)
But I was never truly happy in any of those fields, and it wasn’t until I understood that what I wanted, and needed to do, was ALL the things that I liked to do, that I was able to start creating the kind of work life experience that I wanted for myself.
Finding my own niche
And that’s what I do with Vibe Shifting – I use all my interests, passions and talents creating this space. My web background, my education and training background, my psychology background, even my crazy work history and shockingly widespread experience; it all fits together perfectly in what I’m doing now; even my recipe book project, which I’ve been working on, on-and-off, for the last few years, ties in with what I do here. But I had to get creative and be open to all the different ways in which the things I wanted to do could manifest in my life, and not try to control or box things into structures that have been defined by outside opinion of how things should be.
So don’t choose. You don’t need to, and you don’t need to worry about missing out on something that’s important to you. Do it all. Be creative and find awesome new ways to make it all work for you. Because if you want it all, you can absolutely have it all. Make your list, and start charting out your long-term plans. It will help you get yourself organized and give you that direction and structure that you’re looking for, while making sure that all those things you want to do are acknowledged and accounted for.
Now, for all you listeners out there, if you have an unusual schedule or work life set up that allows you to really follow all your passions and interests, then I would love to hear from you. There’s a long-term project that I’m working on, and I wold love to feature personal stories from people who have decided that they’re going to do it all, and are actually living it. If that’s you, send me an email at Nathalie @ VibeShifting.com and tell me your story!
photo credit: pixabay.com cc (modified by me)
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This is truly precious and will be the new normal one day, but not quite yet. Thanks for talking about this topic!
Baby boomers always deter you from such things and claim that you can’t be good at several things; you need to concentrate on one to be any “good” at it. Of course, these are heavily limited beliefs that are deeply ingrained in society, as you very well know. If you are indeed mufti-talented, which is a true blessing, then you suffer with not being able to express it all and you need to get boxed into something like all the rest because things are run by people who are not as “evolved” as you are. You saw how things worked in HR. It’s pretty sad. No imagination there. And the thing perpetuates itself. Because you may be evolved, yet suppressed becasue of the way things are set up.
And I have always wondered about baby boomers who still continue to run things. I mean, their parents were flappers, were they not? How did they get to be like that? I know they experienced years of uncertainty and all that, as we discussed before, but why let circumstances influence you so much? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? What you put out out there comes back to you.
Not all baby boomers are like that. Everyone is different, regardless of what group they happen to belong to.
My view on the trials and tribulations of the multi-talented is that the best thing we can do is shift our perspective. Just because other people think we need to narrow down our sights and focus on one thing only, does not mean that we have to adopt that as our own viewpoint. Stop letting other people tell you how to live your life — if you have many things that you enjoy and are good at, then this is very a much a blessing rather than a curse! How wonderful it is to have so much to work with and experience! Revel in it! Enjoy all those talents! Experience the lot! And most of all, have fun with it! The only way you can become boxed in is if you let those outside opinions take control — if you let yourself believe that those outer voices are right about choosing just one thing, then, yes, you will get boxed in. But that will be your doing, not theirs.