Tame Choice Overload, Categorically

“It’s overwhelming!” That’s Marci’s reaction to the decision she’s facing now. No longer content to drift in whatever direction life takes her, Marci has decided to choose a career.

Great! However, making effective choices is easier said than done. While Marci is motivated by a strong wish to take control of her future, the range of opportunity is mind-boggling. When she reaches out for advice, she hears, “You can do anything!  The world is wide open.”

This article is one in a series  
You can find the first article in the series here.

So Marci perceives an overload of choices, and she’s responding by feeling stress and anxiety. How can she choose the most satisfying option from so many possibilities?

According to reality therapy, a reasonable first step is to figure out what you want.

In his book, A Set of Directions for Putting and Keeping Yourself Together, Dr. Bob Wubbolding suggests that you put your wants into meaningful categories, such as personal, social, financial, physical, intellectual, and spiritual goals.

So before Marci tries to pin down a specific career, she might find it helpful to think of what she wants in terms of categories, using questions such as these:

Personal Goals: Do I want to pursue a particular area of interest? Do I want to prove anything to myself? For example, do I want to succeed at something that’s completely new to me? Where do I want to live? Do I want an adventure? Do I want to stick with the familiar?

Social Goals: Do I want to spend my days interacting with people? With information? With machines? Would I rather work by myself or as a member of a team? Do I want to be responsible for others? Do I want to be told what to do? Do I want to be in charge?

Financial Goals: How much money do I want to make in the short term? Long term? If I need to get an education, am I prepared to go into debt? If so, how much?

Physical Goals: Do I want a career where I am working mostly with my hands? Or do I want to work mostly with my mind? Do I like to provide a service? Or at the end of the day, do I want to be able to see something that I’ve built or created?

Intellectual Goals: Do I want my work to be challenging? Or do I want to learn a job, become good at it, and get my challenges in other ways? Is it important to have opportunities to advance? Or would I rather become comfortable at a job and stay there?

Spiritual Goals: Is it important to work at something that fulfills a purpose that I believe in or that provides a benefit to society? Or can I be happy doing work that doesn’t have a deeper meaning?

Do you think these categories could help you set goals?

Finally, next column, we’ll take a look at how Marci might determine a career choice direction.

The next article in this series is here.


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