I’ve been neglecting blog posts the past few weeks due to lots of exciting client projects, but this passage from Decisive, the new book by Chip and Dan Heath, caught my attention. One of the points they make in the book is that we tend to narrow our options when making decisions and as a result we tend not to make very good ones.
“Father J. Brian Bransfield, associate general secretary of the Unites States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that the parishioners who seek out his advice have a tendency . . . to unduly narrow their options. Individuals will often approach him with a dilemma: Should I marry this person? Should I take the job I’ve been offered in another city? Should I become a priest?
His parishioners will often fret, “I just don’t know what God wants me to do,” and look at Bransfield expectantly, hoping he can act as a spokesperson. ‘There’s a myth that there’s only one thing that God wants you to do, ‘ he said. ‘We spend so much time trying to figure out that one thing and become so fearful of making a mistake.’ Bransfield challenges them to broaden their perspective:
Actually there are 18 things that God would be very happy if you chose. You’re not cornered into becoming a priest or not. You’re not cornered into marrying this woman or not. There are 6 billion people in the world. You’re telling me that God looked at you and said, ‘There is only 1 thing you can do in your life, I know it and you have to guess, or else’? Could it be that you are putting your constraints on God?”
I laughed out loud when I read this—more out of the recognition that I’ve been the person wanting the right answer than any sense that I have been wise enough to see my many options. A number of clients have come to me wanting to find out the same thing—what is their one purpose in life, what is the one kind of work that will bring the greatest satisfaction, happiness and reward?
I think all of us--them and me--need to lighten up! As Bransfield suggests, there are many ways we can make a difference in the world, many opportunities to use our gifts and many workplaces where we can thrive. Our task is to locate only one of the many options we have at any one time. That’s a lot easier than finding the one thing we are meant to do.
Plum Cluverius, PCC is an executive coach with over 30 years experience in leadership and professional development. She lives and works in Richmond, Virginia.