Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Optimism of Crisis: 8 Steps to Make the Best Choice

The phenomena of 20-somethings going through a 'quarter-life crisis' is no longer just found among a few- it has become a rite of passage into adulthood. With the multitude of career options out there and different ways one can lead her life it is easy to become overwhelmed. From choosing which college to go to, which major to pick once you get there, and finally which career path you will travel down, life becomes overrun with monumental decisions after 18 years of having the plan mainly laid out for you. Choice is jumping off a cliff from the dream of possibility into the of reality of action- but if you don't jump you'll never get to swim.

Instead of seeing all of the possibility and wonder of choice, having so many options makes one see only loss of possibilities when choosing – even the best possible option. When choosing a major, perhaps a guy has always wanted to be a doctor and the pre-med track is an easy pick. But in today’s culture where we teach our children that they can ‘do anything’ and ‘be anything’… we want to do everything! All of a sudden when Mr. Pre-Med is there about to sign that slip committing his school career to all of the biology, chemistry, and math classes… he remembers his love of painting and foreign cultures and starts feeling an overwhelming sense of loss. All of a sudden choosing medicine is no longer just gaining the knowledge and skills to become a doctor- which he still wants to do- it is now also losing his chance of becoming a famous painter or an anthropologist who leads the exciting life of traveling to foreign cultures.

Now imagine you do not have a good idea of what you want to do with your life, or what will make you happy. This is when the ‘quarter-life crisis’ begins to really spin out of control. There are so many options and you want to choose the ‘best’ one- the major, job, career path, or even place to live that will make you happy in the long run. The fear of making the wrong choice can lead one to delaying making a choice at all. It can become immobilizing.

Recently I heard a man mention he was going through a quarter-quarter life crisis…yet I could not focus on what he was saying because one thing kept running through my mind: This man is 30 years old! How amazingly optimistic to be crying ‘crisis’ with the intrinsic assumption that you will live through it - and beyond to be 120 years old! Part of me wanted to shake him! While I completely appreciate the overwhelm of choice, it is not a crisis! Perhaps we should reframe these moments as times of gratitude where we have the extreme good fortune to have the opportunity to have the freedom of choice.

Next time you feel a crisis of choice coming on, take these steps:

  1. Be grateful for the opportunity before you!
  2. Think about where you want to be in the future, and where each of the choices will take you.
  3. Make a list of positive and negative outcomes for each choice, and make sure to include what the positive and negative consequences will be for not choosing an option.
  4. Decide!
  5. Know you made the best choice for you given the information at hand so there is no reason to look back!
  6. Know that the choice is not your entire life. If there were appealing pros on the other choice’s list you can find ways to incorporate those or similar aspects into your life.
  7. Give the decision your all, and enjoy it(!), for you were given this wonderful opportunity!
  8. In the future when a new choice comes barreling down your path, or if circumstances change and you want to reconsider your career, location, or even something as simple as where to go on vacation… start over at step one!

Always remember when you begin feeling the stress of an impending life choice that gratitude is the best outlook! If you are having a hard time deciding it is because there is not a bad choice in the bunch- if one of the choices was bad it would be pretty easy to rule out! Think about the options, appreciate the opportunity, and you will make the right choice!


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