If The World Is My Oyster, Why Is It That I Feel Paralyzed by Possibility?



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I am 26 years old. While I know I am still young, I am well aware that I am no longer a child. I’ve been privileged enough to have grown up being told that I should pursue my heart’s desire. Find my passion! Shoot for the stars! Strive, seek, find and never yield in my journey to answer even my quietest whispers of purpose. And yet, in the midst of the many blessings of actually believing, a bit breathlessly, that the world, perhaps, really could be my oyster, why is it that I feel paralyzed by possibility?

There are so many interesting things to do in this world, how is it possible to merely choose one, not to mention that it be the right choice? And furthermore, as I’ve stumbled upon my mid 20s, standing with bated breath at the precipice of career indecision, I cannot help but feel enthralled by the small daily discoveries of learning what I love about the world, people, and myself. I’ve only just begun and yet, already I feel like I’m lagging behind. I envy those who have a narrowed in focus of what step to climb next; which path to march down at the crossroads. Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I stood, knowing the only thing worse than choosing my way, was making no choice at all.

In the 20 something’s search for self as well as purpose in a satisfying career, how do I balance building a resume and building a life that’s right for the person I’m still learning to become?

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You have perfectly described the 20-something conundrum, AKA the quarter-life crisis. I just returned from a trip to Paris where someone shared the quote, “In France we say too much choice kills the choice.” In behavioral economics it’s called choice paralysis. Too many choices increase the sense of risk…the fear that you are making the wrong decision. But as one of my favorite 40-somethings put it, “The only decision that is irreversible is the one to have a child.” And after all, it is a blessing as you say, to have the choice. Know that you will have more opportunities to change not fewer. 

My take: don’t take it all so seriously (I hear the backlash!). But seriously, that is what so many 40-somethings I have interviewed would tell their younger selves. That’s not to say  it’s not important to strategize on your career path (see my Levo League Office Hours on this subject here). A quick summary:

First, take your values into account. What is more important to you? Money, helping others, being creatively challenged?

Second, take an inventory of what type of work gived you energy and what drains energy. What are your strengths? What is in common about the ones that give you energy? Then research where you can apply them.

Third, start building skill portfolio and writing your story. It’s all about how you connect it. I talk about it as building your career tree. It doesn’t have to be a linear line. You nurture your skills as the trunk and can try different limbs to grow and achieve fulfillment.

Fourth, don’t get caught up comparing yourself to others and their path. There are many different limbs. If we all took the same one, the tree would topple over. The world needs diverse skills and not a bunch of people who do the same thing at the same rate. At some point you just have to put the blinders on and focus on your path rather than get caught in the race.

The gist is to spend more time focusing on what you are excited to do now than on fearing the paths not taken and their impact on your future. The FOMO factor. One strategy that changed my world in my twenties was to simply take everything else out of the equation. If I was making this decision to make myself happy and only myself, what would it be? To make it work, I made the assumption that I would be single for the rest of my life. So then what would the decision be? What would I want…not my parents, my friends, my colleagues or society? That is not to say that you cannot refine or change your course based on how people intersect with your life but it s a good tool tool to gain perspective on your gut instinct.

A big question so we have a big answer. The point here is to provide multiple perspectives. Next week I will share what some other 40-something women had to say.

It’s a popular topic. Here are some other 40:20 Vision posts that may help!

Does Fear of Uncertainty Ever Go Away? 

Can You Switch Jobs Too Much In Your 20s?  

Don’t Throw Good Times After Bad?






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