Choosing everything is choosing nothing

Three years ago, I was all of the following:

  • a loving husband;
  • a dance teacher;
  • a dance student;
  • a law student;
  • a project manager;
  • a blogger;
  • a productivity coach;
  • a competitive squash player;
  • a cyclist;
  • a tech support consultant;
  • an author; and
  • a high-level video game competitor.

That's a long list - and there's almost certainly some other things that have escaped my attention.  This isn't a list containing my career, and then a few hobbies around it.  This is a list of everything that I was attempting to be the best at.

I don't do things halfway.  When I play video games, I read, and write, strategy articles about them.  I blog about my progress.  When I blogged, I would spend hours writing long essays about the topics I chose.  When I practiced dancing, I would set aside one hour blocks in my calendar to dedicate to that practice.

I was doing all of this at once.

You probably know people like this (or might even be one).  For myself, I wore it a little bit like a badge of honour.  Every time someone would ask me if I was free, I would express, feigning exasperation, how busy I was, and how I couldn't fit it in without advanced warning.

All the while wondering why I felt unfulfilled and frustrated.  Further still, I felt lonely!  For all of the stuff I was packing in, I wasn't actually getting my own needs met.

It took me months of work to get fully present to what I was choosing: nothing.  By choosing everything, I was choosing nothing at all.

You see, we like to believe that we can take on everything.  That there's enough of us available to take it all on right now.  I never took the time to really assess why I was doing that, it just seemed like I was capable of doing it all, and why wouldn't I?  I even concocted reasons for it, like, the more I say yes to, the more I move myself forward.  By taking on more things, I enhance my potential for growth.  I must look like an amazing candidate!

The trouble is that it was costing me everything that didn't slot neatly into my calendar.  I was saying no to those blissful moments of spontaneity that can show up when a friend drops in and asks to chat for a few minutes.  I was saying no to the freedom to kick around with my wife for a few hours longer than we initially anticipated.  And those realizations weren't even the thunderbolt.

The thunderbolt was that I was actually saying no to everything on that list as well.  You can be good at many things, but great at only a few.  It's a fundamental aspect of our lives that greatness requires dedication and commitment.  Not only was I trying to create that level of dedication and commitment a million different things, I was trying to create it without sourcing myself (cutting back on time with friends and my wife?  That is not in service of my greatest self).

What I realized was that I was choosing my fear.  My fear that I wouldn't be enough.  That I wasn't doing enough, and that failure was forever just around the corner.  If I am not enough and am not doing enough, then it's simply a matter of doing more.  Taking on more, and excelling in more.  If failure is just around the corner, I better be damn certain I don't put all of my eggs in that one basket - I need to spread myself out.

The cost of all of this was immense.  I was consistently choosing between things, and then finding myself at effect to the choice I'd made.  I would choose to say yes to more work, say no the next time a friend asked to get together, and then be frustrated that people didn't give me advanced warning.  The thing is, sometimes people don't give advanced warning (and they certainly have no obligation to).  If I wanted to create more friendship and connection in my life, Iwas going to have to be at cause to generate it.  By choosing everything, I was actually choosing nothing.

I was avoiding having to make a choice.

So I made one, about five months ago.

With five months left in my articling year as a lawyer, I chose to commit to my love of coaching.  I let people know that I was making this choice.  I shared it.  I put it out there.

I felt the fear.  I felt like I would fail if I did this.  I felt like the decision put us at risk (it does, as with anything worth doing).  I felt like I was letting go of something that was safe (I was).

I did it anyhow.  Instead of choosing nothing, I made a choice.

You can too.

What's your flavour of not making choices?  Where is this pattern currently playing out in your life?  What would be available for you if you simply made the choice, instead of avoiding it?