Chicken or Beef?

A story I often share with folks who ask for advice is based on an exchange I had w/ a waitress several years ago. I am often indecisive when choosing an entrée at dinner and will ask for advice. Pointing to one dish in each of the pasta, chicken and beef sections, I asked for advice on a final selection. Her answer (in the form of a question); “well…do you want chicken or beef?”  

Of course, I meant is any particular dish wonderful or something to avoid. But I had asked imprecisely. And the answer is one that has stuck w/ me because I think it illustrates an important life lesson. You have to decide what YOU want. Others can offer advice, but only you can know what you want. There is no shortcut. You must think for yourself. It’s also no one else’s responsibility. It’s your life and career. Be proactive in making decisions.

Often, a career counseling session ultimately boils down to me being asked what should the other person want. We agree on the options on the table, the pros and cons of each and all of the various particulars. But when it comes down to A vs. B, they balk and want an out, an easy opinion from me on “the right” choice for them.

There are two problems with this:

1) People hesistate due to what a friend of mine refers to as “the fallacy of infinite choices”. By this he means we all think that making decisions cuts off options. This is the “if I don’t make a choice, both paths are still open” assumption. This is a false assumption.

2) Also, making a choice means we need to know ourselves and our goals well enough to be confident in the choice. So many of us want to avoid the “buyers remorse” of a wrong move while also seeing all the greener grass on another lawn. This clarity of mind is rare, but can be developed.

Take-away: There are many factors to consider as you make specific choices in advancing your career. We will explore them over time on this blog, but you need to be prepared to actively think through what you want.

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2 Responses to Chicken or Beef?

  1. alexa says:

    I agree with all of that. When trying to work out my next life decision (college, family, work, etc.) I want so much to be certain I’m making the “correct” decision for my life, I end up overwhelming myself with info and choices and it turns into a soup of cofusion. It takes too long (I am not a patient girl) and I look around and wonder WHY it is that I’m hemming and hawing? I finally figured out that I’m waiting for some perfect moment of clarity, whereby the exact right choice will become blaringly obvious.

    That clarity moment has occured a few times, but as I get older and more mature and have a family to consider when making major life decisions, I’m finding that there may not actually be a perfect and exact correct choice. I think decision-making requires less perfection, and more constant motion (no stagnation). If you’re always moving and thinking and learning, and you don’t see a decision as a walled-off pathway that you’ll be forced to follow for the next two decades, decisions will cease to be so be-all, end-all, and will just be the way we all move through life. You can always change direction, and it’s almost impossible not to have learned SOMETHING from any decision you’ve made.

  2. Alexa – I agree. There are two keys to me; 1) being honest w/ yourself about what’s important at a point in time and 2) learning as you go. To your point, it’s a decades’ long journey. Very few single decisions are definitive.

    Another thing I struggle with and try to coach people on deals w/ your point on “perfection”. A former boss used to comment “you can have it all, just not usually all at once”. It’s important to realize that depending on your career goals, you can’t always be fulfilled, well paid and home at 5:30 for dinner. Different elements are more important/dominant at different points in your life. That’s normal. I think we beat urselves up trying to achieve some philosopical ideal of fulfillment.

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