I’ve been thinking about choices a lot lately.
Scratch that. I’ve always thought a lot about choices. Probably because I’ve never been very good at making decisions, since ultimately, choosing one thing means not choosing another. That’s the part I have a hard time with. I’m pretty good about knowing what I don‘t want, but there are so many interesting possibilities out there that it’s really hard to narrow down what I do want.
In high school, I ran myself into the ground because I couldn’t choose – I was one of a handful of kids who got permission to be on the swim team and participate in the fall musical. I juggled track practice and the spring play. But let’s be clear, here – I was fine at all these things. Not great, but fine. It wasn’t like I was a huge talent and the show wouldn’t go on without me (was Villager #2 really critical to the plot?). But as fine as I was, I really liked all these things. I wanted to be a part of them and enjoyed having these experiences in my life.
I don’t have trouble letting go of things I’ve tried that have no interest for me (softball, the flute, Girl Scouts). I enjoyed all these things just fine, but they didn’t hold my interest long-term. In college, I knew I wasn’t going to be an engineer or a math professor, so I dutifully completed my math and science requirements and moved on. But I couldn’t narrow down my interest in the liberal arts, so I double majored in communications and political science and minored in business administration. And now as an adult professional, I’ve finally settled on consulting as my career so I can work with lots of different people and organizations.
Clearly, I have trouble choosing.
A friend recently shared this blog post, Work-Life Balance is Absolutely Bogus by Deirde Maloney. And while I don’t necessarily think I have trouble with work-life balance specifically, the first truth she asserts is that there’s no such thing as having it all. Maloney writes:
The idea that we can “have it all” if we just get better at time-management or set some boundaries is a fallacy. When we try to squeeze our never-ending list of activities (and relationships) into a given day, our time and energy run out. We wind up doing a bunch of things partway. Which means we do some things well and some things … not-so-well.
I’d like to think I’ve gotten a little better about life balance since running myself into the ground in my high school days, but Maloney’s words ring true to me – trying to squeeze it all in means that quality of work and the quality of the time spent suffer. We have to make choices about what we want to do well and there’s just no way to get around that. And that’s just the reminder I need when I start to think about all the things I might be missing out on. It’s probably not a coincidence that the one sport in which I excelled was skiing and I devoted myself fully to that sport for the entire season. So as I think through the choices I make, I need to stop thinking about what I might be missing and start thinking about what I want to do well and let that guide me.
What do you want to do well?