Wednesday, July 27, 2011

That there may be too many choices out there!!


We live in an era that offers a tantalizing smorgasbord of choices. My oldest son will commence Year 12 studies next year. We've been thumbing through job guide magazines, bamboozled by the sheer number of possible career paths a young person may take. In 2000 when he was in Reception, somebody remarked, "Some of the jobs these kids will finish up with haven't even been invented yet." I'm sure that's true.

Today's young people are being brought up to perceive the world as their oyster. We're peppered with messages to "MAKE YOUR DREAMS COME TRUE" from many sources, and we're quietly terrified that our dream job may be out there but we'll miss it due to ignorance. That was true for me in the '80s and even more so for Logan in the tweenies (which is what I call this decade). We want fulfilling work choices to give us the trappings of worldly success; great houses, impressive cars and the chance to travel abroad and indulge in upmarket recreational activities. The umbrella over all this is the overwhelming or obligatory desire to 'make a difference.'

Poor Logan is overwhelmed because he's 16 and doesn't really know what he wants to do. He's thinking that perhaps he'll start focusing toward a career in web design, just because he has to pick something, but the burning question that eats us all is, Will that be right for him?

I think back to nostalgic stories of the past when people never worried about finding fulfilling careers. Guys grew up knowing they would work on their fathers' farms and girls' hands would soon fill with keeping homes, vegetable gardens and children flourishing. They worked hard. They ate what they produced. They raised their families, attended church, trusted God and were thankful. The question, Is this the right thing for me to be doing with my life? didn't enter their minds because they had far fewer choices.

With Logan, I'm re-visiting the angst I went through in the late '80s and early '90s. Our minds are racing because we can't stand the thought of cutting off any options. If we choose "A" we feel the sting of not having "B", "C" or "D". As a result, every choice feels worse than no choice. And when we do settle on a plan, we end up with buyer's remorse, wondering if we're settling for second best. Therefore our freedom to pursue any path ends up feeling more like bondage than liberty*. I believe it's no coincidence that psychiatrists and counsellors are experiencing a boom that was never necessary in the olden days when simply getting through each day and keeping your family alive was a feat worthy of satisfaction.

I don't think there are any pat solutions to that depression brought on by the abundance of choices because it is now embedded so deeply in our culture and mindsets. I do think we can actively promote a more peaceful attitude if we remind ourselves each day to consciously choose gratitude for those most precious things we take for granted; the same things our ancestors couldn't help feeling grateful for because they had to work so much harder just to retain them. I'm talking, of course, about blessings such as food to eat, clothes to wear, cosy shelter, family and friends to love and encourage. I even have hot, running water straight to my taps and a computer to use (although you'll probably hear me complain that Adelaide tap water is too full of chlorine and my computer is too slow, because that's the way we of the 21st century are conditioned to think.)

Seriously, if we remind ourselves to be thankful for the basic privilege of life, we may be more content to follow our hearts, doing the jobs before us each day without worrying about whether we'd be more fulfilled doing something else.

Here's a link to a little video which highlights what I'm talking about. http://www.flickspire.com/m/iaaw/LifeIsLikeCoffee



* Some of the ideas in the paragraph are from "Just do Something" by Kevin DeYoung.

7 comments:

  1. Love this post. We do have so much choice and I often wonder if that's such a good thing.

    Love your end quote, "doing the jobs before us each day without worrying about whether we'd be more fulfilled doing something else." Need to put this into practice myself!

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  2. I think it's a hard call to expect teenagers to even know what they want to do with the rest of their lives. Most kids really aren't sure until they're at least in their twenties. But yes, there are too many options out there and it is easy to forget to be grateful for what we have.

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  3. I left school thinking I would get a job but it was early 80's if you didn't get a job within 3 months you were considered unemployable. I was a close 2nd so many times it was so disheartening.
    I know it can be hard to know what you want to do. The one thing I learnt is let the child do what they want not what the parent wants. I wanted so much to work with children or in an orphanage but mum thought it was a bad choice and made me do the secretarial course which I didn't want to do and had no interest in. by staying that extra year at school I was a year older and missed out on jobs cos of it.
    Irony is I now want to work in Admin!
    Good luck to Logan on his choices.

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  4. I always wanted to be a writer and my parents thought it was a bad choice as there would be no money in it. It turns out they were right but I did it anyway. :)

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  5. Have you ever read "The Paradox of Choice" by Barry Schwartz? That discusses a lot of what you talk about here. I read it about fifteen years ago and it really helped me to stay focused on what I wanted out of life, instead of being confused by all of the choices. Logan will be fine. Let him start with web design. As I told Marina, you are only marking a starting point. That doesn't mean you have to stay with it the rest of your life. I've had more fun sampling many different interests, and I'm amazed at how they always return me to my starting point: art and writing. I am what I am. The jobs may not have been invented yet, but the general subject headings they fall under have.

    If Logan is interested in web design, he should find out all he can about it, because it will probably be the starting point for anything he pursues. If he wants to make an impact, he can practice his skills by volunteering with a local charitable organization. They are always looking for someone with good computer and internet knowledge.

    BTW, Marina picked graphic arts as her major. I think she will be very happy there.

    Peace and Laughter!

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  6. You know, I actually felt I didn't have enough choices when I was in high school.. so choices are good.
    And the exciting thing is - that it really is so easy to change direction after starting something. Or trying something new after several years in one occupation.
    *spoken from a mum who has 6 years til her son is in that situation* ;D
    Finding joy in everyday. xx

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  7. Cristina, I haven't read that book but it sounds like something I'd relate to, especially at the moment. You've got some great suggestions there, too. I hope Marina continues to do great with graphic art.
    Michelle, lack of choice??? Oh, not around here. But you're right, and I'm sure the people I wrote about in this blog would agree that it's a blessing too.
    Cheers,
    Paula

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Thanks for your comments.

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