What do you want? Overcoming choice paralysis

“What do you want?” Ryan Gosling asked Rachel McAdams in that famous scene from The Notebook.

A dramatic scene turned comedy by adding the caption “When you ask her what she wants to eat.”

It isn’t just women who are indecisive, unless I’m secretly a woman, but the problem is actually the phrasing of the question, “What do you want to eat?”

We live in a world where options are nearly limitless. By asking someone a vague question such as “What [in the whole world] do you want to eat?” you’re sending a person’s brain into a frenzy as they scroll through endless options mixed with the pressure of the time-limit that comes with ordering food.

This applies to more than food. In these wonderful times, it seems something new is invented every day, and then a multitude of similar products flood the market to appeal to every type of customer.

Too many options lead to what is called “choice paralysis.”

Choice paralysis is the fear of making the wrong choice, so we just don’t choose.

I’ve been guilty of this myself. I have a gift (curse?) of being good at almost everything I try. It’s not a brag, it’s just how it is. However, I’m not particularly great at anything.

This was awesome growing up because I could essentially fit in anywhere without having to start at the bottom. As an adult, this became less awesome because I’d spent so much time trying to fit in that I never took the time to stand out.

After graduating high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. My friends all seemed to have an idea and either went to work in their field or went to college with a plan.

Not I.

I kept waiting for life to present me with an “ah-ha!” moment where it would all make sense.

15 years later and that moment still hasn’t come.

What I’ve learned recently is how to close doors. I wish I learned this sooner, but whatever, I know now, and hopefully, this will help some of you learn before I did.

I’ve been making note of the things I enjoy, the things I’m good at, and the things that I can imagine myself doing forever. Some things I love, like poetry, are potential career fields I’ve explored. Yes, I tried to make it as a poet, sort of. I figured rapping is just poetry to music, so I tried to make it as a rapper.

Image for post

You can see by the Myspace tag how old this is.

I found out once I headed down the path of hip hop that it doesn’t matter how good I can rhyme, it all comes down to how well I can market myself. I hit a wall.

I had to make a choice. Do I close this door, or do I learn how to do the other things that come along with rapping (the sales side of the business). Seeing as though you’ve probably never heard of me, you can guess what I decided to do.

I still love poetry, and I still love hip hop. I write rhymes in my spare time (That rhymed by accident. I’m just that nice with it), but I don’t have any desire to build a social media following or make YouTube videos. Those are keys to success these days. However, if you’re curious, my site has a few of my songs on it.

I love video games but can I picture myself being a professional gamer/streamer? Absolutely not. Gaming is a fun thing I do with my friends. The amount of time required to create/upload videos doesn’t seem interesting to me. You can probably tell, I’m not a fan of sales or advertising.

So, I closed the door on gaming, which saved me a lot of time because I spent several hours a day gaming, which I’ve cut way down to just a few hours per week. My gaming time was preventing me from investing in what I truly want.

Writing.

I want to be a writer more than anything else in the world. When I picture my future, I imagine sitting by a fireplace working on my latest novel. That’s pure happiness to me.

Knowing I want to be a writer allowed me to close more doors than ever before. I just ask myself, “Will this help me achieve that goal?” and if the answer is no, then I don’t invest time into it.

I’m still fine-tuning my routine but by closing doors, I’ve been able to at least start one. My daily routine looks like this:

Starting between 5–6 am
Wake up
Coffee/write for at least an hour.
Gym for an hour
Breakfast
Work (Covid has affected this, but normally I’d travel to work, work, travel home)
Run errands
Cook dinner
Family time
Read
Bed between 9–10 pm

Choice paralysis sucks, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. Take a little bit of time to think about what you don’t want and start closing doors. Limiting options is essential for forward-motion in 2021!

If you need a little proof, the next time you’re going to order food with your girl, instead of asking “What do you want to eat?” say, “I’m ordering pizza, do you want cheese or pepperoni?” (You can swap the food for your preference, but you get the idea).

There are too many choices and too little time to spend going over every viable option. Close doors, limit options, then make a decision and stick to it.

The secret is, there really aren’t any “wrong” choices. No matter what you choose, so long as you choose something, you’re moving forward.

RJ Harrigan Author— A Rose For Isabel -Now Available on Amazon

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