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!