Growing up, my mom told me, "When I was your age, I could only choose between becoming a secretary, a teacher or a nurse. You have so many choices - the options are endless - the world is your oyster!" THIS was not helpful, and I was left befuddled. I now realize why I was left paralyzed by this advice, and it is explained in Sheena Iyengar's fabulous Ted Talk on The Art of Choosing. I recently came upon this talk, and now it all makes sense! As a social scientist, she studied how people make choices. Basically, when we have more options, we make a choice less often. When we have fewer choices, we are more apt to make a choice. Product marketing people are using her findings in limiting the number of products in one category that you see on a store shelf. When people have too many choices, they tend to walk away vs. buy. Brilliant. Now I can justify why I had such a hard time figuring out my college major, my first career path, my next career moves. I had too many choices. I couldn't pick one, because I was overwhelmed with the possibility of making the wrong choice, or leaving something better behind.
So, "what then must we do?" is a famous line in my favorite movie The Year of Living Dangerously. ( I am not promoting smoking, but this picture of young Mel is lovely, and he was in this movie)
We must figure a way to limit our choices in a positive way.
- Start with a giant brainstorm list of options, consult friends and relatives for ideas, look at earlier blog posts for how to generate some ideas
- Ask yourself, of these options, "If you knew you could not fail, what would you do?" and then number those options 1 through 5.
- These are your top options
- Research what it takes to do these jobs, talk to people in these careers, find someone to "shadow" for a day
- Narrow it down to your top three
- Do more in-depth research
- Choose and go for it!
Sort of random side note: I think this idea of choice theory applies to boyfriends and husbands. My whole life I have wondered why girls from small towns all seem to find the man of their dreams and get married at a typical marrying age, while girls from more densely populated cities remain single for what seems like so much longer. TOO MANY CHOICES! Oh well.
Here is the link to Sheena Iyengar's Ted Talk: The Art of Choosing