Problem: Overwhelmed by the options


In this post I'm addressing the problem of how too many options and choices are making transition decisions overwhelming.  This is resulting in delay, anxiety, and/or fear.  My examples are by no means comprehensive nor my suggested solutions.  Rather they are intended to provide some direction for understanding the problem and possible tactics for solutions.  I provide further resources below to learn more.

Example 1:

Having ran a successful general contractor business for 30 years, Jay seems to look at moving out of the business like this: Staying in the business seems simple, straightforward, obvious, with minimal risk.  Moving out of the business seems full of uncertainty, an overwhelming number of options, while many appear incredible and full of excitement, there are still many to choose from, and the risk of feeling like he made the wrong choice or really didn't get the most of out it, is making him avoid the decision altogether.

Example 2:

Mary had worked in her company for most of her 25 year working life career.  She had moved in and out of the company a few times but overall, Acme Corp. was HER company and the career she really see's herself as doing and being.  She's always been a strong saver and with her current 401k, Pension, and other personal investments, she and her partner can live even better than they do today.  Whenever she really sits down to plan for what she'll do with her time and energy (aside from the things she knows and love like her grandchildren, the local Rotary club, and friends) she really feels overwhelmed with the options available.  She's healthy and so is her husband, they could travel, by a small boutique store in their town and run that, start a non-profit working with educating children in developing countries, and a vast array of other options that really interest her.  When she gets the options on paper, she often feels demotivated, and the options seem less and less appealing the more she wrestles with them.


What Jay and Mary are dealing with is a common issue associated with both an abundance of available choices and also coupled with the switching from a constrained and structured lifestyle (from the schedule and rhythm associated with a business and long time career) over to the Freedoms associated with a new lifestyle in which they've moved from Freedom FROM work to Freedom TO Work. There are known psychological impacts that happen when people feel they have too many options available, too many choices to make, too many alternatives to consider, and too many criteria by which they're judging the choices.

Try the following remedies:

  1. Generalize the solutions to lower the overall number of solutions
  2. Consider MUST HAVE judgment criteria first and foremost and be very discerning on introducing any new considerations in your decisions.
  3. Decouple choices that seem like they rely on one another.
  4. Only consider 1 or 2 alternatives at a time
  5. Understand what choices are reversible and irreversible.  Understand some things can be changed and some choices you should make irreversible, so you don't look back.
  6. Don't look back on the decision, go all in.  If it isn't a "Hell Yes!" then say it's a no.

Book Resources that Can Help: