Lost in a sea of consuming interests, I’ve had great difficulty selecting a dream. If success depends on deciding on a dream, then taking that dream down into goals and the goals step by step into reality, then I am doomed because I can’t choose just one. I wondered if success is impossible for a person with dreams deadlocked in competition.
Most of the literature on success and even common sense seems to indicate that to get “good” at something, you have to focus on it. In order to focus, you have to decide. Decision making and keeping your commitments to that decision, seeing it through, are prerequisites to success.
I couldn’t help but be discouraged. Am I locked in a race after a carrot I can never catch? I love variety, challenge, and change. I am great at projects and love working with people, but I just can’t choose one career, one love. I absolutely need to branch out, like water must press outward to its outermost limit. I love to be spread thin.
Hope for the non-deciders
There is incredible risk to not deciding. We could spend our whole lives popping from one thing to another and never become “good at anything.” We might not reach our potential in any area. It is easy to feel like a failure. Am I just too picky? Am I immature or spoiled?
In all the books on success, I found two that offer hope. Refuse to Choose! By Barbara Sher is the most validating and helpful book I’ve ever found on this subject. She calls people interested in many things, “scanners.” She itemizes the strengths and advantages to not deciding.
Are there advantages to not deciding?
I know that for me personally, it was right to not decide too soon. Over time, following as many dreams at once as I can, I have avoided a narrowing focus that would have limited my future options. Barbara Sher says it is okay to do everything you love. I just laugh to myself because, to be true to myself, that is what I am doing, must do, and have always been doing.
I can’t live my life one handed when I have two. I just can’t do it. So, why do I think I have to choose? I’m caught in my own circle of trying to choose (for success) and being consumed by the impossible choice (which distracts from success), a classic “character paradox.” I was denying my own success by the dogged pursuit of success just like a dog chasing his tail.
There is a huge advantage to not deciding if you can’t decide. That advantage is you can move on. There is a way to skip the dream choosing first and once and for all. And, thank heavens for that. My life is multi-faceted, and I intend to keep it that way.
It isn’t rocket science.
It is amazing to me how something can be obvious and hidden in plain sight. Just like we have different roles, of course, we can pursue different interests and even careers. Lindsey Stirling inspires me because she took her two loves, playing an instrument and dance, and managed to do them together! That is so not choosing, and coming out on top.
I just need more time. Most success books say take your goals and get them down to bite size pieces so you can do something on them every day. This just doesn’t work for me. First of all, I thrive on big bursts of focus and energy. It takes time for me to focus and get productive. If I’m always switching, I am never fully engaged.
If I had to fit everything I love into every day, that would be incredibly limiting and predictable. I don’t like either. It feels so artificial to me. I have more than one day in the week. Every day is not the same. Why should each day have a bite of each food group, when I love to feast on each one in turn?
Jack of all trades?
What if instead of fearing becoming a “Jack of all trades,” we embraced it as the goal instead? People with many skills are very valuable on any team. Why are we afraid of being multi-functional?
Thomas Moore points out in his book A Life at Work that “it is possible for the boy of dreams to land his balloon and enjoy life on earth… he has to come down to earth, fit in somewhat, and direct his creative urges toward productivity, community and service, and then he will give you an identity and a life work.”
Maybe that is what we are missing–that part of identity that is unifying, simple, and complete. I cried when I read that passage. I know it is time for me to “come down.” Maybe I can now because I see that I don’t have to force myself into a cage. In fact, I haven’t necessarily been on the wrong path at all.
It isn’t just identity, it is community.
Thomas Moore says that community is an outlook on life, defining yourself in relationship to the world around you. If you were to focus just on yourself, what you are good at and love, that is not the perspective that focuses on the whole. What does the whole need?
If you are like me and concerned about community, you might find it almost, if not impossible, to pursue a course of action purely for personal delight or because you might be good at it.
I have a community outlook. I have to find the crossroads, the intersection of my loves and what my community, the world around me needs. That is the win/win spot I’m looking for. Where would my skills be most useful and enjoyable?
Success to me is not aiming to be the best. It is becoming successful at living my definition of an amazing, contributing life. That dream can not be found overnight or in isolation.
For the foreseeable future…
I know that everything could be different next week or even tomorrow. There are so many things we can’t control that do affect us. But “for now” is a powerful timeframe. I can’t choose one dream. But for now, I plan to work at being the best wife, mom, writer, fitness instructor and youth director I can. I am going to start writing my first book and save up to get my masters in public administration.
I don’t know if I will be successful at it all. But, I know I won’t be happy unless I try. It might take me longer than people who can focus on one or two things, but for me, it is the only way to fly.
It is okay that we don’t know everything.
What do you know?
Where are you headed, for now?
Our world, your community needs you.
DarEll S. Hoskisson
DarEll S. Hoskisson loves to do hard things, but not too hard. She shares her own challenges, goals and experiences as she guides you into a realistic path of self-reflection and self-improvement. She shares tips on how to find, know and trust yourself so you can decide if other’s suggestions are right for you. DarEll has the world a little upside down—where work is play and play is work. She actually thinks other people’s problems are fun to try to solve and lights up with a personal challenge. She loves people, harmony, and excellence. She also loves useful things like tools and ideas that make work faster, easier and more fun. DarEll married in 1993 and graduated from BYU (1995) with a bachelor’s degree in English and Secondary Education. Since then she was adopted by 5 children and has worked with many non-profits. She is currently a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor—leading pilates and yoga at her local YMCA. DarEll lives in Florida where she enjoys her family, nature, her work, and encouraging people to live well. She periodically posts her poems, what she is learning, and service opportunities on her personal blogs: https://personalabridgements.wordpress.com and https://darellhoskisson.wordpress.com