Fear of Wide-Open Choices

What if I really could have everything and anything I wanted? The tough part would be figuring out what I really and truly wanted.

It’s a bit overwhelming to have so much choice. Usually it’s easier to make up stories and excuses about how I don’t really have a choice – that I am the victim of the choices of others. Then I don’t have to be accountable for what happens to me.

Another way to escape from the overwhelming agoraphobia of complete freedom is to judge most of my options – to make up stories about why they are wrong or unsatisfying. It’s easier to reject a choice if I can clearly believe that there’s something wrong with it. Over the years, this excessive rejection and judgement has left me angry and depressed. I’ve gotten into the habit of rejecting options as quickly as possible, to narrow the field and make it easier to choose. Now it’s hard to truly enjoy anything at all.

It’s a more difficult choice to accept everything without judgement but also carefully choose what to bring into my life moment by moment, while accepting complete responsibility for what I choose.

What has your experience been?


About Craig

Craig lives in Calgary, Alberta.
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8 Responses to Fear of Wide-Open Choices

  1. Oh, choice… an interesting subject, and one that is relatively new to me!

    I find that sometimes, in my todays, I don’t have complete freedom to choose whatever I would like. Someone gave me great advice about this, though. He said, “Whatever your choices, even if you don’t like them, or if they are all uncomfortable, consciously choose one anyway. As you do this, your choices will improve.” I think this was a great aid in shifting me into a more positive, responsible, empowered mentality.

    Other times, I find my todays are filled with so many choices I can barely contain my enthusiasm and excitement. I can get paralyzed because they are all so interesting. It’s like being at an amazing restaurant and having to choose just one or two things off the menu — can I just order the “life buffet”, please? 🙂 One strategy I am trying is to allow myself to taste little bits of this and that for now. I’m also trying to use joy (my own and that of others) as a guide in making choices.

    Another component of choice I find interesting is how our choices impact others. Though I believe in shifting myself away from “victim-mentality”, I don’t believe that there aren’t any victims in the world. We are affected by each other’s choices, probably in ways we are not aware of. I’m trying to be more conscious of this, particularly in my purchasing choices (which sometimes includes choosing not to purchase) but this is just a starting point, I’m sure.

    Nice post Craig! Hope you’re well!

    • Craig says:

      Hey, J, good to hear from you! Your thoughts line up with a lot of my own experiences… Realizing that I still have choice even if I don’t like the options very much, and consciously choosing them… Having so many options that I have trouble narrowing them down… I like the idea of tasting bits from here and there, but then sometimes I have to pick one thing and commit, even though it’s torture to think about all the other awesome things I’m giving up by narrowing my focus. If I never pick one thing, then I never get the joy of getting into that one thing deeply and powerfully. When I make no choice at all, I still make a choice – not to commit to anything, and not getting anything in return – which is the opposite of what I wanted!

      • Hi there Craig! Good to be chatting with you again!!

        Though I am allowing myself an exploratory stage right now (particularly in circus arts and career decisions), I know that I do need to pick one thing and commit. Some people like to dabble in this and that, but I feel a desire to find something I love and dive deep — which yes, will inevitably mean giving up other great and amazing things. Good thought — when one makes no choice at all and eats “from the buffet”, that, too, is a choice! Choice is sneaky 😉

        Any experiences you can share, or suggestions on how to choose and commit?

        Right now, I have the idea that embodied joy may be a guide… along with a good dose of what is realistic (what I am capable of achieving, re the circus) and what will meet my needs (re career options).

        Interested in how you’ve made choices for yourself. You wrote about judging your options, and finding it difficult to enjoy anything. Is this true for everything? You seem to enjoy a lot of things in the short time I’ve known you.

        Would love to hear more of your thoughts. Thanks for writing and sharing!

        joanne and feline extraordinaire, Amelia

  2. Nadia says:

    This seems to me the the opening piece in a longer post. Some concepts are introduced, and I am interested. Perhaps some examples would make it a little more anchored in my mind.

    All that aside, I find myself just choosing whatever seems most interesting at that moment. This has led to some adventures, such as the time I met with Mythmaker, and decided to run away with their performance circus for the summer! It was hardly planned, and wildly rewarding.

    I agree with your last paragraph in particular. To own the choices we make, and to accept that wherever we are in life, some part of us really wanted to be there.

  3. Craig says:

    In response to both Joanne and Nadia: Some examples:
    1. I work as a Contracts Administrator by day. There is huge demand in Alberta for people with my experience right now. I am getting, on average, 1-2 requests from recruiters every week to consider positions with various oil and engineering companies. I’m not completely satisfied with the job I have, but it’s okay, and I’m not convinced that taking a similar position elsewhere would make my life better. So I’ve opted to stay where I am, with the status quo. By not choosing any of my new options, I have chosen to continue with what I have.
    2. When I fly back from Fort McMurray to Calgary for my 4 days off every other weekend, I have plenty of options. I could spend time with one of my friends in Calgary. I could go on a dating site and meet people. I could rest up and spend time alone. I could work on my spiritual practices. I could go to meetups. I could get a massage. I could organize a social night with friends. I could fly to Vancouver and meet up with old friends there. I could fly off for a mini-vacation somewhere nice. So many options. And if I choose to invest time with one friend or group of friends, I don’t get to spend time doing other things. If I spend time alone, I don’t get to spend time with friends. If I spend all my money on a mini-vacation, I don’t get to spend that money later on. Four days go by so quickly when it’s only every other weekend.
    3. Dating scares me a little. Not because I’m shy (I’m really not). Dating opens up a whole world of potential suffering. I could date a psycho who calls and texts me at all hours after one lousy date. I could end up committed to someone I sort of like, and then find out I missed out on someone I would have liked better. I could waste a lot of time with women who look good in their online profiles but turn out to be turn-offs in person. So, most of the time, I choose not to date at all. This is a choice to stay alone. And lately, I’m getting tired of that choice. I would like to choose companionship. So now I need to figure out how to meet women that I will like and feel safe with.

    I purposely made the original blog post short and generic, because that’s been my style lately. If I feel like I have to write 600 words with lots of details, I never get around to it. If I sit down with one little idea, I can write it out. I also like having the back-and-forth conversation with questions and answers, so I don’t feel like I’m just shouting into the void.

  4. Sleepless in Moncton says:

    Hi Craig!! So I’m a lot like you in the choices arena. Always making excuses about how they’re unsatisfying or just rejecting ideas right away.

    Partners have been a different subject for me… I used to just go out with someone just for the sake of going out with someone until I realized … wow, these guys treat me like shit! So I started to consciously lay out what I wanted in a man in my head. First time I was a little too generic.. some guy I haven’t talked to in forever messaged me on facebook and then we started talking a lot and eventually started going out. Yes he was a nice guy, he had an eclectic taste in music and had talked about interesting things but… I didn’t think I wanted to stay in a relationship with someone who wasn’t spiritual and then I realized I wasn’t sexually attracted. So I left the relationship and tried again. This time I was more specific than last time. A guy started noticing me that I used to like. He was super spiritual, I was attracted, he was nice, a musician… Anyway I really liked him but he was always mentioning ways I could be more spiritual and mentioning that he like girls who were skinnier because he was skinny. It was helpful at times but I felt like I was always being looked down at and criticized…. so I moved onwards. This time asked for less criticism and a few other things such as someone who likes my looks. Now I’m with the guy I’m with now… smart, sense of humor, artistic, spiritual, doesn’t criticize me, loves me for who I am.

    So in a matter of 3-4 years I went from men who used to lie, cheat, emotionally abuse, and steal from me… to a man who actually loves me and who has many of the virtues I look for in someone.
    I’m thinking this method might work for you. Really lay out what you want in your head or on paper and then just let it go.

    Thank you for this topic, it’s made me think about how I can improve my own life choices. I’m thinking if this method can work for my love life, perhaps it can work for the other facets of my life.

    Andrea ^-^

    • Craig says:

      Hey Andrea, good to hear from you! So glad things are still working out in the relationship. Sounds like you’re happy where you’re at in life.

      It sounds like you learned a lot about what you do and don’t want from each relationship, and how important each thing was to you. Life experience has a lot to teach that way. At least it does for me. Trying to think everything through in advance about what I do or don’t want doesn’t always work. I think I want something, then I try it and don’t like it. I’ve done that a lot. I learn a ton from experience – from tasting, testing, trying. Sometimes it seems like I end up walking away from most everything I try out, and then I wonder if I’ll ever stick to anything. (This is a real concern for me.) Then I realize, hey, I’m here to experience all that life has to offer, so it’s okay to try a bit of everything.

      Relationship-wise, I’m getting tired of playing the field and I’d like to settle down into a deep relationship some day. But it looks like I might have to do a bit more dating and really get a feel for what works and doesn’t work for me in a relationship.

      Andrea, you are an awesome girl, so I’m glad you ended up with someone who treats you well and loves you the way you are.

  5. Craig! This is awesome!

    I totally relate. My personal definition of “mid-life crisis” is: the moment that comes to each of us, that we realize our life IS UP TO US, and we simultaneously realize, we are not (yet) equipped to decide for ourself what we really want to do! Of course mini-mid-life-crises happen. I’ve had several, one for every time I got off track. Happily, they are getting more and more mini as time goes by and I notice quicker.

    The root of the problem, as I see it, is that we live in a world that does not (yet!) fully trust in the inherent goodness of the Human. So as kids, we are not given freedom, because, “What would they do with it??!”

    But as various social experiments (my favourite: http://www.sudval.org/ ) around the world have demonstrated, when we give kids (and ourselves) freedom (not license), support, clear boundaries as to morality, and resources…they THRIVE! They immerse themselves in one interest then another, building their sense of themselves, their knowledge, resources, connection, problem-solving powers and …WOW.

    That’s what the school I am working to create is about. That’s what my healing and life coaching work is about (upgrading your internal operating system, so to speak).

    By the way, I am looking for Good People Who Make Things Happen, to help make this thing happen. If you know any, please tell them about me.

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