So Little Time, So Much to Do

Lately I have been thinking about all the many options available to me in my life. There is so many jobs out there. So many countries to visit. So many people to meet. As cliched as it sounds, I can be anything I want to be!

I genuinely believe anyone who is proactive and motivated enough can do whatever they want in life. However as optimistic as this sounds, this thought can get a little too overwhelming at times. If there are that many options in life, how can I possibly make the right decision? I am scared of choosing one path and missing out on the infinite number of other paths. I feel I need guidance to tell me which path I should take, but I know even if I were to receive such guidance I’d probably be too stubborn to follow it.

I have this paradox of wanting to experience everything in life, but when I start thinking about all the things I want to do I get overwhelmed and don’t want to do anything. The options become so scary that staying in bed and watching Netflix for the rest of my life seems a more attractive option.

I looked into this, and psychologists call it the paradox of choice. Barry Schwartz wrote a book on the topic where he says too much choice “produces paralysis, rather than liberation. With so many options to choose from, people find it very difficult to choose at all.”

Of course, I do make choices and get out of bed (occasionally). But I often get really melancholy when I think about the fact that I won’t be able to experience everything life has to offer. I will never visit all the places I want to visit. I will never have all the careers I want to have. I will never meet all the people I want to meet. I will never read all the books I want to read.

I am currently reading a book called Stoner by John Williams (It has nothing to do with drugs. In fact no one smokes a doobie in the whole thing.) It is a quietly melancholy book about a man called William Stoner who becomes an English Professor. A quote that inspired this post was this:

“Sometimes, immersed in his books, there would come to him the awareness of all that he did not know, of all that he had not read; and the serenity for which he labored was shattered as he realized the little time he had in life to read so much, to learn what he had to know.”

I don’t really have a conclusion for this post. I wish I did! It is just a stream of consciousness I thought I’d attempt to articulate. Do you have similar thoughts? As always, I’d love your intelligent and thoughtful opinions around this topic!

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34 thoughts on “So Little Time, So Much to Do

  1. Like you, I have so many ambitions and plans that at times it seems as though they are lost causes.
    In my opinion, because of the culture we live in, the majority (but of course not all!) expect everything to be laid out in front of them. Some poeple like to have it all within their grasp, but when they don’t, they give up. It is a natural response, which I believe is also caused by a fear of the unknown.
    I like to think that even working towards a goal is something to be admired.
    The challenge is to step past that thought pattern of not possible, for anything is.
    Take this example, if a child wants to become the next Prime Minister and a writer, that child should never be told it’s not possible, for some people actually do. Meaning that it is possible.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. “Working towards a goal is something to be admired” I love that. I often need reminding that the end product shouldn’t always be the goal. We should enjoy the process as well.
      I suppose having all these ambitions and plans is a good thing. It just shows we are actively making the most out of our lives and not letting it passively pass us by.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I am absolutely in the same place! But I had no idea that it had an actual description. I just thought I was the only feeling paralyzed. I definitely wish we could experience all the different possibilities! I now just try to take it day by day 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. You seem to have made a great start in fulfilling some of your dreams. You’ve seen places around the world that many poeple can only dream about. As for careers and personal relationships, it all come down to making decisions about what you really want. No one can ever sample every possible career, so it’s a question of starting on one that gives you the most satisfaction and suits your particular talents and interests. Many people have a few career changes as they go through life, but those decisions are made as and when. We all have dreams, and if some are fulfilled you will have done really well. As others above have said, just enjoy what you’re doing right now. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for the advice. You’re totally right that I have been lucky enough to see and do amazing things that other people will never experience. And I am thankful for that everyday.
      I think the overall consensus in the comments is just enjoy the moments while they are here. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Well, the only advice I can give you is the advice a relative of mine gave me the first time I went trekking with him and we were facing what to me, a scruffy seven years’ old boy, looked like an enormous mountain (well, it still is, it’s 1000mts in almost vertical elevation from where you start!). What he basically said was not to think at the whole mountain, but only at the next step, and to stop only every little while to gauge your progress and check you’re still on track.
    I followed his advice not only for trekking (works a treat) but in life. I can’t say it’s the best ever, but it worked. It works day-to-day, it works when a sudden occasion pops up out of the blue and it works also when life throws your plans out of the window (got quite a few of those circumstances lately).
    I think that the Americans, always more pragmatic than I am, have synthetised all this gibberish in a single phrase:
    “How do you eat an elephant? Bit by bit”.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. I have never been able to fully formulate how I was feeling, but this is exactly it! I certainly agree with all of the comments about taking things one step at a time, but if I’m not mistaken, the point here is that no matter how many steps we take or how hard we work, there will always be something left undone or some experience we’ve missed.

    I wish I had any advice for this, but I don’t. In a way, though, I think it’s almost a good feeling, because it means that we are really engaged in the world and it will drive us to get the most out of life. To me, it is better to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of possibilities we have ahead of us than to realize later on that we missed out. It doesn’t minimize the fear of actively choosing the “wrong” path (I use quotes because I’m not sure what would constitute a wrong path), but it makes me feel better to know that whatever I choose, I am choosing to experience the world, rather than passively letting things happen to me.

    Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. 30 or 40 lifetimes of possibilities, right?

      Seems that if you’re living as fully present as possible,whatever you do will be satisfying. All those other possibilities will be there, but you’ll see them with different eyes.

      Like

  6. I know what you mean, lot of the time though its limited by your financial abilities. There are so many places I’d like to visit if I could afford to. So in the meantime I visit those places I can.I appreciate those.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. As I read your post, I am sitting in bed watching Netflix. I am not so young that I have endless possibilities open to me, but I understand what you are saying. I always wished that I felt so passionately about one thing that I could follow that path, and then everything else would just be icing on the cake.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think a lot of people wish they had a ‘true calling’ which they could focus all their energies into. Unfortunately this is very rare. I think people need to create their own calling rather than waiting for it to magically find them. Which is easier said than done with Netfilx constantly enticing me!

      Like

  8. I believe the loss of many traditions and once-cherished rituals, combined with the bewildering variety of choices available to us has indeed left many feeling both aimless and unfulfilled.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi Kristian,

    I completely relate to what what you wrote about the paradox of choice. For myself, it took a concrete project to stop the spin. A project that would take longer than a day or a week. I choose a year long project that would require a daily commitment. I also needed accountability, so I turned it into a blog. For the first time in my life, I’m no longer paralyzed by too many ideas. And no longer going to bed beating myself up for letting another day slip by.

    Part of the process, for me, was also fully understanding that a choice doesn’t have to be exclusive or permanent.

    You won’t pick a wrong path Kristian. Clarity will happen on whatever path you choose. But you do have to take a step and then another.

    All the best to you –
    Jo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jo,

      I completely agree with you about finding a longer term project to focus your attention on. Everyone needs some sort of creative outlet that stimulates them. I am so glad to hear that you have found yours and are no longer paralyzed by too many ideas! I’ve had similar moments in the past and it’s a great feeling. At the moment I am still on the look out for a new long term project to invest my energies into. I have hope!

      Thanks for the encouraging comment.

      All the best,
      Kristian

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Year Avon when I was a consultant I met a gentleman from Germany who was on a trip around the world. He left Berlin and headed east, determine to not just see the world, but to experience it. He wasn’t independently wealthy, he was working his way around the globe. When he landed in a city he would take whatever job he could to survive while he explored the city. He had been a janitor, busboy, waiter, anything he could do to pay the way. He lived in hotels, apartments, hostels, even the YMCA? His travels and stories were truly interesting.

    However, his travel was cut short when, while working with me, the fall of the Berlin wall occurred. He ended his travel to go back to his homeland to experience, first hand, what was going on, and, if possible, to get a job in West Berlin to talk to people about what life had been like on their side of the wall.

    Like

  11. I suspect living in books allows us to fill in the gaps for the things we probably won’t do… though I hate library specs… there is nothing more depressing to me than knowing one building holds more knowledge than I will ever be able to obtain in life… but there is also a lot of stuff I hate. It shortens my lists considerably 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. When I get stuck in this kind of mess, it takes me a while to realize that I am spending more time thinking than actually doing anything. But there is one technique I use that works most of the time and that is to make a list and work on only one task at a time. The second part is very important and very hard to do but I almost have to shoot my brain down for confusing me into thinking that I have to do everything at once, today in this moment but I know that I don’t have to. Patience is key. With yourself, your dreams, your life, your loved ones, just everything.

    Like

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