Tame Choice Overload with Direction

A world filled with possibilities—that’s a wonderfully freedom-filled way to look at the future. For Marci, however, determined to make one perfect career choice, all those possibilities seem more confusing than delightful.

Added to her confusion is a feeling of intimidation. As Marci perceives that what she decides now will have an impact on the rest of her life, she’s determined not to waste money or time pursuing a wrong choice. That “all or nothing” perspective brings with it feelings of uncertainty and dread.

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

If Marci allows those feelings to overpower her thoughts, she runs the risk of leaping to a quick decision just to feel safe again. While that may feel better momentarily, she may end up far from the outcome that she says she wants.

Choice Theory suggests that it’s difficult for us to control our feelings directly. We can much more easily control actions and thoughts, which can then influence our feelings.

So, can a reality therapy perspective pull Marci away from reacting to those fearful feelings and toward a thought-based decision?

Last column, I suggested one method to engage thinking behaviour: Marci could consider questions based on goal categories, such as personal, social, financial, and so on.

Here’s another exercise Marci can try to help put her thoughts, rather than her feelings, back in control of her decision-making process.

I’m sure you know the old saying, “You can’t see the forest for the trees.” Picture it: wandering through a thick forest, all you see is what’s close by. How do you prevent wandering around in circles? Pick a point: a tree or a landmark in the distance, and head in that direction.

As you move toward that landmark, you’ll probably find detours: swamps or cliffs. You may not be able to travel in a perfectly straight line. However, as long as you continue in the correct general direction, you’ll make it.

How can an imaginary walk through the forest help Marci choose a career? Just as we need to look beyond the nearby trees to get through the forest, Marci could start by looking beyond the confusion of her immediate choices, and instead focus on a “landmark” sometime in the future.

If Marci can picture herself at that landmark—that time in the future—living a life where she is satisfied with her career, she can become clearer about which direction to take. Asking questions such as, “What would I be doing?” “Where would I be living?” can be helpful, as well as “How will I recognize whether I am satisfied with my choice?”

As Marci becomes clearer about what a satisfied life looks like to her, her career direction may become clearer as well.

Determining the one best choice from many possibilities can be daunting. Instead, concentrating on finding a general direction that suits you can help put all those choices into perspective and reduce the feeling of overload.

Does determining a general direction help you make your choices?

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