It was noon when he came bouncing through the double doors.
"Hey! I made it just in time!" he grinned.
We locked eyes and exchanged big hugs, as is customary for cafe meetings with handsome men.
"I'm ready! Let's do this."
"Wow, look at you!" I said. And I cracked open the laptop and we jump right in to the meeting. A little catching up on personal life events, the state of affairs at work, a throw around of search parameters, some of the "I wants," then the mortgage and downpayment number crunching. And, even more calculating. By the time handsome gentleman busted out his spiral notebook of thoughts to share, I already knew read it all over his face. He was ready to pull the trigger and make the move.
When shimmied off the bench of the corner booth that March morning he had a scratch list of 3 key tasks to cover before we could graduate to the next stage of our grand adventure. Actually going out to look at places, live and in the flesh. If all kept along the path of forward motion as that meeting had we would be back together again in a few weeks, ready to rock and roll. I was sure of it. We had started talking about him buying a home almost a year before, and this time he seemed more willing.
But those 3 weeks became 6 and soon it had been 12 since anything budged. A couple brief chats later and I uncovered something more daunting: he had managed to morph those 3 scratch list tasks in to a handful or more options. It was as though what we had seen together as a clear cut path to moving forward towards fulfilling his dreams of independence and pride of property had now been a self-directed standstill at a fork in the road. “I might move to the East Coast,” he said “and work is a little crazy right now, so everything is up in the air."
Mr. handsome still rents a room in a house, and the money he worked to save got spent on a vacation and a new car. His problem?
Too many stinkin’ possibilities and a lost sense of which one to pursue.
I’ve seen this too much in my line of work and I've learned there’s no point in trying to make sense of it between the lines of news articles citing the oh, so popular gripe of generational inaction "millenials don’t care about owning homes or career opportunities." Or media reports of the helplessness of “baby boomers facing dwindling net worth from losses in investments and supporting children beyond the age of 22."
This kind of "option paralysis" goes beyond external oppression, option paralysis doesn’t discriminate based on generation or socioeconomic factors. Blaming the economy or world events for personal inaction and unhappiness is not in line with my sensibility, I'd guess it isn't in line with yours either. This is an issue best left to seek answers to within yourself.
Nowadays my facebook newsfeed and tumblr accounts are littered with inspirational quote graphics, many of which are share-worthy. And there is this one that rubs me wrong as it perpetuates the myth that 'the world is your oyster.' The idea with this one is that you are a shiny pearl waiting to be released from your shell and strung up into a beautiful display. But, on a scientific level, the fantasy of this promise just doesn't add up.
You see, a pearl is actually formed as a defense mechanism within the shell. A piece of grit invades and the oyster immediately goes into protection mode by covering it in layers of nacre. Pretty and precious- but masked, no less. Now, have you ever known anyone to have fulfilled their goals by sitting back and covering themselves in layers of defense. Even as averse to high pressure salesy tactics as you might be, the buy in is much higher with the whole "diamonds are charcoal under pressure" shtick.
I help people with making big decisions as a profession. Some folks struggle without need and an even smaller population wind up being so paralyzed by options that they make no move at all. The result is sad, and l often run back in to them later to learn that life hasn’t changed much and that they are still restless.
In my work I have also discovered a common thread of behaviors and attitudes that run through the stories of my happiest clientele. These are the homeowners that take calculated risks; they sell their places, rent short-term and buy a new home that better suits them, or they put the un-fun work in to cleaning up their credit, they save up a few more bucks by foregoing the vacation, or ditch the big suburban two-story for a single level in the city. Today these people are ahead of the pack. Content with their space on a deep level, busy making memories and free of decision making limbo. They have a peace in their lives that most envy, and their home serves them better than they dreamed of. They can't imagine having made a better decision.
Broken down in to 4 steps, here are the mindset shifts that have proven crucial to these folks:
- Laser focus: Instead of a broad awareness of all that is possible, narrow your sights to a vision that embodies the simple truth of what you really, really want. Get obsessed with seeking answers to hard questions like “How does what I want make me feel?” or “Why do I want this?” If at any stage you get the sense that what you want is about proving yourself (or keeping up with the Joneses)- it’s a sign you need to dig a little deeper to uncover your own, true motivations. When it comes to moving and buying or selling a home (or both), you have a mental picture of what your life will be like in a different space. I’m not talking about window treatments and furniture placement; more like sounds and sensations. Go there, that mental picture is just what the doctor ordered.
- Take the next action step. Now. Credit issues? Call and schedule an appointment with a (reputable) credit clean up organization. Not even sure what your credit looks like or what a house payment equals? Call a mortgage expert. Need to borrow money from a 401K or family member to make it happen? Make the call, have the discussions. Worried about your job security? Take a quick tour of Indeed or Monster.com to see what plan B might look like for you if the rumors did actually come true. Often we need to see progress to commit further to the process, and taking one small step can be all it takes to get you up and moving forward.
- Review, reassess. Many times, just the sheer act of taking an action step as outlined above, will wig you out. Take an honest look at your discomfort. Is there a threat to your safety and security? Are you uncomfortable because you’re outside of the comfort zone you’d been in? Have you unearthed an obstacle that makes you scared to tackle? Talk to yourself, here. Reach out to supportive friends, family, social media outlets or even Pinterest for some affirmations and inspiration. Would an accountability partner or calendar reminder help keep you on track? Set it up. Getting outside of your comfort zone isn’t easy. Prepare yourself with a mental script and plan of attack to keep positive when you hit real or emotional roadblocks. Go back to the visions developed in step #1 if you feel stuck, perhaps it needs some narrowing, or recasting. Or maybe you just need a quick refresher of what it is you’re after and why it’s worth the growth.
- Keep going, don’t stop. Chances are, if you’ve nailed steps 1-3 down you won’t need much more encouragement to keep pursuing your vision. In fact, you may be so passionate and ready to be at the finish line that you have grown impatient with slower than anticipated progress. This is a good sign, and a reminder of the wisdom of Earl Nightingale. Earl says “Never give up on a dream because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.”
Too many options paralyze you, because the mere presence of numerous options distract you from pursuing the goals you have in your heart, the ones that have no self-doubt attached to them. The noise of too much open possibility pulls you away from being able to listen to your voice of reason, to your deepest desires, to the answers of your burning questions.
The truth of life is that we are all in pursuit of similar goals; variations in the pathway, timing and scope of these visions exist, sure. No one dreams of a home life plagued with uncertainty, or a space in flux rather all of us share a need to have a home that is stable, secure and a serves as a jumping board for all of the rest of our pursuits.
Being attuned to your dream at the start of the process will ensure you bypass paralysis and arrive at a peaceful place.
Home. Sweet, home.
All in, all ways-