Too Many Choices: Overcoming Decision Paralysis

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Chatting with Marcy Axness

Last year, I started the Strocel.com Podcast. It actually grew out of the audio interviews I did for the Crafting my Life Online Class. I so loved chatting with people about what inspires them, hearing their stories and picking their brains, that I decided to continue. It became something that I run almost every Friday, and it’s one of my passions. When you have a podcast, you’re always on the hunt for people to talk to. When my childhood hero Raffi had glowing praise for Marcy Axness, I knew she was fresh meat a good candidate. This is how I found myself on the phone with her for an hour, talking about her book Parenting for Peace.

Sometimes, an hour-long conversation with a stranger can bring about a sudden shift in how you view things. This is what happened when I spoke with Marcy. She said a lot of things that resonated with me, and left me thinking long after we’d hung up. One of the biggest, though, was her assertion that giving young children too many choices is a major parenting mistake. The rationale – based on hard science – is that children need to feel like their parents are in control in order to flourish. When we make decisions for them, they feel safer and they’re free to spend their energy doing things that kids should be doing, like playing and learning.

Too Many Choices?

The concept that too many choices can be a bad thing really stuck with me for two reasons:

  1. I constantly offer my children choices. Even basic requests are phrased as questions, and therefore a matter of choice. If offering too many choices is a bad thing, I need to re-vamp my parenting style.
  2. As I thought about choices, it occurred to me that even as a full-grown adult I don’t like being offered too many options. Having to decide between many options can be paralyzing. There’s even a book – The Paradox of Choice – which talks about just this situation.

As we seek to live with greater purpose and intention, we’re often overwhelmed by choice. If you could do anything, be anything, go anywhere, how do you sort it all out? How do you choose the one single thing that’s right for you? It’s no small order. It’s no wonder that many people feel paralyzed, and unable to make up their minds, in the face of it. It’s also no wonder that many people choose to just stick with that they’ve already got going, even if it’s not the best fit for them.

Overcoming Decision Paralysis

If you’ve ever felt decision paralysis as you consider where to go in your life, I have good news for you: you don’t have to decide. Really, it’s true. You don’t have to know exactly where you’re going when you start, you don’t have to know which one of your ideas will end up panning out, and you don’t need to know where you’re going to be living in five years. All that you need is a willingness to follow your heart in small ways. Easy ways. Bite-sized, tasty, manageable ways. If you have that, you can get started on the road to making positive change in your life.

The truth is that when you set out on a new path, you can’t know exactly where it’s going to take you. Sure, you may have a general idea, but as you gain experience and make progress, your perspective will change. You’ll make adjustments and discover new ideas and options. You’ll discard some things that aren’t working for you, and pick up new things that appear along the way. Not knowing exactly what those things are at the beginning is no reason not to start.

Getting Started

How do you start out, when you’re not sure where you’re going? Follow your joy. Start small at first, by dancing in your kitchen or stopping by the library to find a great book for yourself (no kids books allowed!). Eat jelly beans. Write a poem. Go jogging. Do yoga. Paint. Whatever it is that makes your heart sing, find a way to do it. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time, and you don’t have to know where it’s going. You’re getting in the practice of listening to your heart. You’re also reminding yourself that your happiness matters – because it does.

As you go about living a life of meaning, you’ll find that the choices that are right for you naturally rise to the top. If you’re really meant to be doing something you won’t need to choose it, it will choose you. You just need to give yourself permission to dream, play, and make your own happiness a priority. You can start that anytime, and anywhere, as long as you’re willing. No decisions required.

A New Direction

As of January 1, 2013, Crafting my Life is closed. The blog will remain open, and I invite you to take the time to read through the archives and use them as a resource. If you find them helpful, or if you'd like to keep in touch with me, please take the time to visit me on my personal blog at Strocel.com. While I'm no longer creating online tools, I am still chronicling my personal journey as a life-crafter. I'd love it if you'd come along for the ride.

Comments

  1. Amber, you would appreciate Kim John Payne’s “Simplicity Parenting” and his view on choices for children. A very good read, if you haven’t read it already:)

  2. Twitter: harrietglynn
    With my son, I’m a big fan of “Here’s what we’re doing today and here’s what we’re eating.” Whenever I give Theo a choice, he says “No” anyway! That said, when he likes something, he knows it and wants it. Love that. As for me, I am like a toddler. Somebody just make a decision already! There’s nothing worse than a big waffle-fest over a movie or a destination or tea bags!

    Of course, when it comes to my life path, I feel overwhelmed & bogged down by all the possibilites. I just want a clear path.

    Anyway, good food for thought.
    harriet’s latest post..What I learned this JanuaryMy Profile

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Too Many Choices: Overcoming Decision Paralysis¬† {Crafting my Life} “All that you need is a willingness to follow your heart in small ways. Easy ways. Bite-sized, tasty, manageable ways. If you have that, you can get started on the road to making positive change in your life.” –Amber Strocel [...]

  2. [...] when you’re facing a big decision? When there’s a lot on the line it’s easy to become paralyzed as you consider your options, until you reach a point where you can’t make a decision at all. I’ve been there. I [...]

  3. [...] because too much options end up disabling us to actually make a choice (analysis paralysis or decision paralysis). In a different and better view, choices entitle us to freedom. And I want to free them of the [...]