Hope you guys enjoy today’s guest post from my friend Dayton! Let us know what you think!
Although most of us logically assume that choice is good for us, we’ve all experienced a sort of choice paralysis at some point. We stand in the supermarkets and look frantically between our dozens of choices. How are we supposed to know which ranch dressing is better when there are ten others that look the same? We can’t know. Worse, everything has reached that same level of overabundant choices. Today, not only can you peruse endless options in-store, but you can custom order almost anything online: wedding rings, computers, and even cars. It’s no wonder that people are paralyzed with the amount of choices they have.
But what if this isn’t just restricted to consumer goods, but all life choices? Sometimes, even in life’s vital decisions, we end up motionless, stuck between all the different things we could do.
How did we get here?
Typically, high school graduation means deciding whether you should continue onto higher education or to enter the job market. Where do we go to college? There are 4,140 higher education institutions across the U.S. Once you decide that, you also have to pick what you want to major in. Then, whether you go to college or not, where do you get a job? The options for occupation are endless, even if not all of them are economically feasible. Most of us don’t know from childhood that we want to be a doctor or a chef or a financial analyst. We still don’t know at 18, when we’re asked to make a decision that will impact the rest of our lives.
What about finding a partner? Almost impossible if you adopt the idea of a soulmate, but even if you don’t, it’s not exactly a secret that finding love is a nightmare. Then, among all the countries in the world, where will you live your life? That’s just as crucial a question but instead most people never leave their home state, content with that they’ve got. And that’s just the first couple decades of your life, at least by standard societal expectations.
It’s overwhelming, to say the least. We get lost. There’s too many avenues to take, and not enough information. While we all want some freedom in life, perhaps this is too much. And it can strike at any moment. Mid-life crisis? After a layoff? After the kids have left the house? Another birthday passes, and you think, “Is this really it?”
How can we find “it”?
So, how’re we supposed to deal with this impending sense of purposelessness? Well, strangely enough, Silicon Valley appears to have the answer.
Most of us measure our lives like we measure everything else, in absolutes. There are right and wrong decisions, mistakes that we regret, opportunities that we missed. Dave Evans, a Silicon Valley engineer, suggests that we apply a different mindset. He faces a similar problem at work: how do you create a new device when you don’t know what you’re creating? He has to make several different devices and discover what works best.
This doesn’t seem like helpful advice at first. After all, that’s what our parents and guidance counselors have told us our whole lives. Try lots of different things and find your passion. However, while the steps themselves might be the same, the mindset makes all the difference.
There isn’t one life that we’re meant to lead.
Evans’s approach emphasizes that there isn’t one life that we’re meant to lead. A life spent moving between several different jobs while playing music on the side can be just as good as a career on Wall Street. Just as he and his team could hypothetically create an endless number of devices, that doesn’t mean they’re “meant” to create a specific one or that the other unrealized devices are better or worse. You can’t be so afraid of making a mistake that you never pick a path.
Write down three different ways you could see your life going, and then pick one that you’re going to start pursuing. Doing so will help you realize that whether you pursue music, business finance, or your M.D., you can still be happy. None of those are what you’re “supposed to be.” It’s just a different path, not necessarily better or worse than the others.
Of course, there are some realities that you need to be aware of, what Evans calls “gravity problems.” There are some obligations you have to fulfill. But then the question becomes, what am I willing to sacrifice? Because it is possible for you to pay off your student loans while pursuing music, feed your kids while writing, and even get free Ivy League education. You’ll just have to work harder, sacrifice more, and be smart about it. It’ll be difficult, but not impossible.
Feeling lost is the most draining and depressing state to be in. You endlessly wander, trying to draw a map in front of you when you can only see where you’re coming from. It sucks, and there’s no real solution to drawing that map. Instead, realize you might not need a map. There might be no “X marks the spot” for you; there are several destinations, multiple treasure troves to discover. But you’re not meant to get them all or even one specifically. Life is not linear, it’s a journey. Enjoy it.
About the author:
Dayton lives in Idaho, where she spends too much time playing devil’s advocate, much to the irritation to her few friends and family. Intending to put this passion to use, she writes for many online publications to keep her sanity.
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