Too Many Options To Decide

It comes down to choices. Frequently there are too many options to decide. I reach into my pocket and there it is. A reminder of the sanctity of life, the gift of time, and the opportunities this day will present.

The marble in my pocket reminds me of the man who bought a vase and put one marble in the vase for every week he had until his 75th birthday. He removed one marble a week and what remained was a striking visual reminder that his days were numbered and a reminder to live with focus and urgency.

While the number of marbles in our vases will vary, the questions are much the same.

It comes down to choices.

“In a few hundred years, when the history of our time will be written … the most important event historians will see is not technology … it is an unprecedented change in the human condition. For the first time – and I mean literally – substantial and rapidly growing numbers of people, for the first time, they will have to manage themselves.” 

-Peter Drucker 

And self-management is not easy. In fact, Barry Schwartz, a psychologist, researcher and best-selling author, has shown that self-management, and the increasing number of choices and options available to us, can negatively impact our decisions and performance. Schwartz concludes that when we are overloaded with variety and options we will:

  • Opt for the same old thing as a way to avoid facing unlimited options.
  • Rely on external filters rather than on our own judgment.
  • Become more passive in our participation in life.

Schwartz’s research concludes decision quality and performance rise when we limit our options.

In order to finish strong, we have to be very selective and intentional about what we are doing. The marble in my pocket reminds me to be intentional and purposeful.

I reach into my pocket and the marble says, “What are you going to do to finish strong? What do you need to do run with strength and stamina in pursuit of what is truly important?” It all starts with making selective and decisive choices.

Here are three questions to fuel the race to finish strong.

  1. What are your five most important roles?
    • Identify them, put them in priority order, and commit your time and energy to fulfilling them.
    • This is relational centric. Who gets your heart? Who do you want to show up when it really counts? I joke that I took my role as a father so seriously because I wanted to make sure I had someone to take care of me during my “drooling” years.
  2. What would finishing strong mean?
    • Be specific – an effective way to work through this question is to write a eulogy for yourself. How do you want people to remember you?
    • Identify the causes you want to impact, influence and support. Think of what Jim Elliot said,
    • “He is not fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
  3. What do you have to do to align your time, talent and resources with what you say is important?
    • Evaluate where you are spending your time and money.
    • What would you have to do more of, less of or stop doing to achieve better alignment?

Choice is one of the greatest human freedoms. When we choose well, the light unto our path shines all the brighter.

Question: You liked the marbles, so now, which question is the most challenging? 1, 2, or 3? If you are feeling really ambitious, why? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

2 thoughts on “Too Many Options To Decide

  1. They are all valuable questions to ask and consider………and as I get older, or maybe it’s just where I am in my life, #3 speaks more powerfully to me. You are right, it’s all about the choices we make. What choices am I making….how am I prioritizing my time to be in alignment with my own personal mission and values? How is what I am doing today, right now impacting what I have decided is most important to me? These are questions I know are worth asking over and over again. Thanks Jim! You are truly a sense of inspiration to me and to so many.

    • Catherine, thanks for the insights! Ah if I could just consistently investing my time in the things I have identified as important! I like your thought that you have to ask them over and over. We do what we focus on so keeping that question top of mind is a great idea.

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