“Keeping Your Options Open” and other B.S.

by Amy on April 22, 2015

-Sometimeswhat you don't dois just

I was talking to my brother-in-law the other day. He’s remodeling his house. I know how stressful this can be. (I’m only exaggerating slightly when I tell you my husband and I nearly got a divorce last year fighting over paint colors.)

With remodels, there are infinite decisions to make that you kind of have to live with for awhile — paint, fixtures, lighting, flooring, appliances, drywall texture, doorbells, mailboxes, blow-in or blanket insulation, siding… it goes on and on and on.

“I just have to make the right choice,” he told me. As he said it, I could feel the idea of that sending him into a mild state of panic.

In a society that values “freedom of choice,” we are a deceptively choice resistant bunch.

For example…

I help new coaches build a practice that actually makes money. The number one thing that keeps most of them stuck early on is the idea of “niche.” A lot of business experts advise, and I agree, to choose a specific area of focus (aka a “niche”).

Most coaches stay in limbo here for months, sometimes years, agonizing over the “right” thing to choose.

“I have to pick the ‘right’ thing,” they explain.

So they take business courses, fill out “ideal client avatar worksheets,” poll people. But, conveniently, never choose a niche.

“What if I get roped into an area I hate?” they obsess.

So they try to keep their options open. Which leads them to sound about as generic as it gets promising to “get you unstuck” or help you through your difficult life transitions. Snooze. All coaches are supposed to do that. It’s a part of our job requirement.

Somehow during all this indecision, they manage to stay busy — really, really busy – taking courses, polling people, redoing web copy, filling out ideal client avatar worksheets, polling more people…

Now I’m a huge proponent of taking action. But in a world of infinite options, it’s not enough to take any action because some action is just a waste of time and energy. By that, I mean, some action doesn’t have much bang for the buck.

Most of us don’t take the time to discern “right” action from action that makes us feel like we’re productive individuals making a meaningful contribution when in reality we’re just doing all that work to look like productive individuals making a meaningful contribution while simultaneously avoiding the scary choices we need to be making. And the clock goes tick-tock.

Why is Choice So Scary?

Choice is scary because it requires us to accept that we really can’t have it all. TWEET THAT

Not all at the same time anyway. The math goes something like this:

If you choose this, you’ve got to let go of that.

So we straddle as many realities as we can, deluding ourselves that we have something to gain via this scenario.

(In the mean time we are now waking up at 4am, neglecting our children, snapping at our spouse to get out of the way! and growing larger and larger as we consume peanut butter cups by the handful while glued to the computer.)

Or is that just me?

My hunch is this is exactly why so many of us are soooooooo overwhelmed, soooooo busy, soooooo tired, yet we can’t ever seem to find 2 minutes to sit down.

Tough love time:

You have to choose your regrets.

The alternative is to keep running like a mad hamster indefinitely.

Here are 5 Tips for Living with the Scary Reality of Choice:

  1. Choose your Regrets: I recently decided to pause all one-on-one work in my practice. It took me a lot of time to make this choice because I didn’t want to let go of the extra income and the intimate time with my clients. Eventually, I decided it was a regret I could live with. I gained more time in the day to be with my kids and more energy to show up as the mom I wanted to be.
  2. Stop Believing that Your Choice is Forever: Sure drywall takes a bit of work to redo but all choices lead to something really valuable: feedback. Early in my coaching career I chose a niche as a fertility coach. And I soon learned that, though it had been my struggle, I was NOT happy working with women struggling to conceive. So I went back to the drawing board and eventually found my thing around approval addiction. But I couldn’t have gotten there if I hadn’t started somewhere.
  3. “Leaving Your Options Open” is for Scaredy Cats: Where did this expression come from anyway? It’s a fear-driven expression based on the idea that you won’t be successful so you’d better have as many fallbacks as possible. The truth is, you’ve got to make the choice, then take action based on that choice, see what happens, then tweak your plan based on what you learned. No fallback here!
  4. Choose or Let Circumstances Choose For You: The irony is if you allow yourself to marinate in a state of indecision long enough you WILL find yourself getting roped into the wrong shit. For example, I created a whole business plan for 2015, added a new team member, joined an expensive mastermind, ALL while in a state of unconscious indecision. It turned out fine in the end but it was a heck of an inconvenience for a time.
  5. You Might Get Something Done: Take it from me, straddling multiple realities, all in a deluded effort not to miss out on anything, keeps you from accomplishing much at all. Choose your regrets, decide on your priorities and you might actually do something EPIC with THE most limited resource you have: your time. At the very least, you’ll have 2 minutes to sit down.

For more on this topic, read Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. To learn more about my business program for coaches who want to learn how to make money in their practice as quickly as possible while laying the foundation for six figures, click here.

YOUR TURN: Tell me a choice you’ve been avoiding… What are the trade offs? What “regret” do you choose? Post a comment below and I’ll randomly choose a participant to win a copy of my new favorite: Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown!

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Wendy April 22, 2015 at 8:41 pm

I’ve been avoiding having a talk. giving a talk. (I’m sorry AMY-lol). On the other hand though I regret that I haven’t hosted any talks yet, I have been slowly and steadily growing my courage muscle by using the Slight Edge. the growth I have made personally makes my regret worth choosing.

I’m REALLY loving these short sweet videos with one thought at a time. And a contest is always fun too but I’m posting bc I love your message about CHOICE!

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Amy April 23, 2015 at 1:11 pm

I love that you are building your courage muscle Wendy!

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Corinna April 23, 2015 at 12:39 pm

Oh I am sooo guilty of that. In many areas of life.
I love the tough love advice. Never saw it like that. You quite re-framed my thoughts about indecision and leaving all options open. Thanks so much.

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Amy April 23, 2015 at 1:09 pm

I love it! It’s the same tough love that re-framed my thinking as well.

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Ruth April 23, 2015 at 2:24 pm

Oh Amy, you just punctured my hot air balloon full of “options”. Now I’ll have to stop throwing out bits of this and that, hoping that one will take. It’s midnight Thursday, so by Monday close of biz will have chosen the one I’ll commit to. Scary . . .

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Ann April 23, 2015 at 2:46 pm

I am really resonating with your comment about how TIME is our most limited resource. A choice I’ve been avoiding is looking for a new job that suits me better. I tell myself I don’t know what I could do that would pay the bills. I also tell myself I don’t even know what I want to look for. I have not been at a job for more than 2 years at a time over the past 13 years of my life (since my daughter was born). My career before I had her was in the hospitality industry and although I liked many aspects of that type of work, I could not dedicate the amount of time to both the job and my daughter. I am now recently divorced so I went back into the industry but now, I work from home. This work is very mentally exhausting for me and about 98% email, which feels very isolating at the same time. I miss connecting with people. And I so crave the TIME I need to discover and rediscover what I’m passionate about because SO much of my mental energy is being taken up by working a job that is not nourishing to me at all. And yet, I have to pay the bills so I stay. I trap myself with a belief that I cannot do a different job AND be there for my daughter (both financially and being physically present) .

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Amy April 24, 2015 at 12:52 pm

It’s good to know that it’s the belief that is keeping you trapped. So what’s another belief that allows you more freedom? xoxo

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Ann April 28, 2015 at 2:34 pm

The belief that I CAN be BOTH a good mom AND have a fulfilling and passionate career sure does feel better. And the belief that I am constantly being guided and I DO know much more about what I am passionate about now and by having the courage to live into my dreams and truly be myself (AND TRUST MYSELF) is exactly the kind of mom my daughter wants and needs! 🙂

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Amy May 6, 2015 at 9:26 pm

>>LOVE<<

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Anne in Virginia-USA April 23, 2015 at 2:59 pm

Amy, I’m a Fact Finder with tendencies toward perfectionism, which is a great setup for getting hung up on making choices (but only until I have all the information I need to make the BEST choice, of course!). Barry Schwartz’s book “The Paradox of Choice” introduced me to the concept of “satisficing”: making good-enough choices for most things. That’s now the question I ask myself: “Is this choice good enough to move ahead?” I also factor in the opportunity cost of waiting to decide while I spend more time on research.

I love the advice about choosing your regrets. Long ago, I decided that when I looked back on my life, I wanted to regret things I’d done, not things I hadn’t done. I haven’t always followed that guideline, but it’s stood me in good stead.

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Amy April 24, 2015 at 12:54 pm

Love love love your comment! Such a good point about the opportunity cost of waiting to decide! And I agree, I’d much rather regret the things I’ve done over the things I haven’t done. Wise words!

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Allie April 23, 2015 at 4:18 pm

Amy – I’m with you! I’m obsessed with this book and the idea of choosing what is essential to you.

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Amy April 24, 2015 at 12:54 pm

Such a good book!

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Virginia April 23, 2015 at 4:35 pm

My ‘regret’ will be having to delete lots of newsletters because I am not acting on my dream and goal to publish a series of eBooks and start a podcast. I ‘keep learning’ instead of doing. For now – you’re safe as you continually offer up good perspectives and techniques.

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Amy April 24, 2015 at 12:55 pm

LOL! Glad I’m safe! Good luck with your ebooks and podcast! xoxo

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Lisa April 23, 2015 at 7:15 pm

I’ve been avoiding going all in on my business. I’ve been keeping options open from my corporate world. I realize now this is distracting and leads to disappointment. So earlier this week I decided I am all in! And now I am taking steps to back that up! Great blog post Amy! I love the idea of choosing your regrets!

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Heather April 23, 2015 at 11:42 pm

AMY!! I totally needed to hear this! You know I’m guilty of struggling for years with my NFN (niche for now!). Even though I’m taking action, showing up, diving in, serving clients and surrendering to divine guidance… but still struggle with my niche. I wear a different hats that I am super passionate about and attract both tracks of clientle (no matter what my marketing says). I find that my perfect clients find me regardless of what my website copy says… and yet I find myself always feeling like my message/niche isn’t clear enough so there is no way that I can be super successful because everyone and their mother says I have to have a niche to be successful! I’m doing my best to surrender, to take action and to try things out. And recently I feel like I’ve uncovered a common thread in interested clients (as well as it being a main theme with my current clients) so I’m going to test that one out and see what happens!! Thank you for the loving kick in my ass.
I thought of a possible “solution” to the different hats I wear and that is to offer a VIP day focused on my other track of Integrative Wellness (creating a new life design through self-care practices, prevention and lifestyle medicine) and my 6-month 1:1 mentorship on the other track which is a journey of inner-discovery, self-awareness and awakening focused on healing relationships (understanding/releasing past relationships in order to move forward and not “make the same mistake again”, as well as healing their relationship with the themselves so that their current/future relationships can flourish)… So now back to the drawing board to create my targeted marketing!
Love you lady!! Thanks for your wisdom, as always!

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Jennifer April 24, 2015 at 1:36 am

As always, food for thought. Thanks Amy! I’ve been avoiding deciding to do, or not to do. In so many areas. I have a new daily goal – the disciplined pursuit of completing one thing.

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Julie April 24, 2015 at 2:06 am

I’ve been avoiding the choice about whether I can start offering coaching services without certification (despite work experience similar to coaching). I stay in my comfort zone, but I’m also putting on hold my dream of turning my blog into a business.

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Clemencia April 25, 2015 at 2:23 am

Thank you so much for the advice Amy, I’ve been avoiding growth simply because of fear, love your blog 🙂

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