Choices and Cheescake Factory

Have you ever dined at the Cheescake Factory? Have you ever gone in when you were starving?

Now, I’ll start with a confession — I hadn’t eaten there in a really long time and then yesterday my family had a fun outting and we decided to dine in and in very quick order I both remembered how much I enjoy their food and wondered why we didn’t go there more frequently.

This was my daughter’s first visit. I’m not sure why, but she hasn’t been before (parent fail? LOL) but the one thing I kept telling her was, “wait until you see this menu! Oh my goodness, the choices!” Why I thought overwhelming my already anxiety-based child was a good idea escapes me at the momet, but suffice to say when we opened the menu it didn’t disappoint.

Cheescake Factory has every option under the sun in a spiral bound laminated book they call a menu. They have options for drinks, salads, small dishes, sides, main dishes and desserts and all of them have multiple parts – not to mention there are additional inserts for specials and one that highlights the desserts!

Now, try picking a meal that will be satisfying from this massive list when you are starving and everything you read makes your mouth water.

This is very much how I feel right now with some of the decisions I’m trying to make in my life…I have so many amazing options, so many ideas of who I want to be and how to get there that I am feeling a little paralyzed with what to do first! That got me to thinking that I can’t be the only one who gets overwhelmed with decision making — especially when there is no terrible choice that you would obviously be able to rule out and about 10 great choices where any one of which could be the first step.

So, how does one make the first move in sorting it all out?

I do not profess to know what works for everyone, but below I share the four steps I use to get unstuck and move forward…I hope you find it helpful.

Let’s start with my personality — I am a big picture thinker — an entrepreneur at heart. I do not profess to be great at details. That is not to say that I can’t do details, it’s just not my nature. Expect when I find myself overwhelmed with decision making. Then I can force myself to pause just long enough to work through some steps and stages to gain some clarity around the big picture.

Creating a Vision/Direction

Like I said, I’m a big picture thinker, and even if you are my polar opposite and you bask in the nitty gritty of details, my guess is you probably have an overreaching idea that you have in your head and you are trying to make sense of from time to time.

I’m going to bare all here and get honest with what I’m working through right now because it’s easier for me to use something tangible than generalities, and let’s be real, if I’m going to go through the stages here with you fine folks, I might as well be using the time to solve the issue at hand as well. So let’s talk vision.

Your vision may be something on a small scale like — where you want to go on vacation? That offers tons of choices you potentially would need to break down. Or it might be a much larger decision like — what do I want to be when I grow up. That’s what I’m looking into right now– because I’m 50 and well, there’s no time like the present to define the next half of my life. I say that with a chuckle in my voice, trust me, but that is what I’m working with right now.

After playing with a lot of ideas, spending a lot of time journaling and praying, I feel like I’ve stumbled upon where I am being led in life — I want to help others who are in transition, for now, specifically in faith transitions. Still broad, but it gives me a place to place as the bullseye on the dart board.

Clearing the Clutter

So, now I have my vision. I want to help people in faith transition – more specifically I want to assist people who are looking to sort out something they are struggling with when it comes to their spiritual life. So, I make a list of the ways I can do that. In no particular order.

Just write the list. Don’t overthink it. Don’t try to solve the issues or put the items in any particular order. Just dump the things you’re thinking about onto a little sheet of paper. Once you have it all down on paper, NOW you can spend a little time thinking about each stage. In this stage I have just learned a useful tool — which I realize might feel overwhelming, and since I’m not a good detail person, it took a little bit of getting used to myself but I’m going out on a limb here and I’m going to share it — it’s called “goal mapping”.

Organize the List

After you spend a little time with your list, hopefully a general direction will emerge to help you better narrow your vision. Look at your list and start to organize the items in the order of either what you think you can accomplish first or prehaps where you need to gain more information to move forward towards your goal.

For me, just looking at the list helped me better define the way I might help others with transitions. On my list, in the middle, it says, “Become a Life Coach.” When I wrote that, I stopped for a moment and let it sink in. It was a bit of a magical moment for me, and that doesn’t always happen, but this one time, it did. In writing my list I further clarified my vision.

Goal Mapping

Below is a goal map. It works a little like this: Place your vision in the center…for me that is now defined as Life Coaching. For you it might read “Plan Vacation”. From the center of the map, you will see four lines coming from the center that lead to boxes. In these boxes you will write things that support that goal or things you will have to work through to achieve the goal. They may be on your list, or they may be things that have become clear to you after you work on defining your central vision a little bit more.

If planning a vacation was your central goal, your supporting boxes might look like this: Destinations / People / Resources / Mode

For me, it looks like this: Certification / Resources / Website / Information

From there, notice there are lines from the boxes — these additional boxes help us break down the categories we’ve just defined even further. For vacations, you would start from the “Vacation Desitnations” box. You might be thinking Hot or Cold locations. For Cold locations you might add “Alaskan Cruise” or “Banff National Park”. For warm destinations you may write “Cabo” or “St. John’s”. People might be who you are vacationing with (because they’ll need to have the time to vacation with you available as well) and maybe the people you want to visit on the trip (do you have a friend in Canada who you might want to see while in Branff?). Resources might be the money you need to take the trip and vacation time from work. Finally, the mode might be how will you travel? Boat? Plane, then bus? Will you drive from home? Are you getting the hang of this exercise just yet?

Attack One Area at a Time

Now that you’ve fleshed out the things you need to tackle to make your vision become a reality please don’t do all the things at once! That’s certainly my nature. I’ve had to learn a bit about discipline in this process. I take the thing that is the easiest goal to accomplish first — this will both mark something off the list and give me a little feeling of success right out of the gate. That boost will help me continue when the steps take a little more time or thought later on.

For me, to feel confident in offering life coaching, I think certification is a logical step so, I am spending a little time researching the process to become certified, schools, programs, time requirements and cost. That will help me decide if it’s the right time to begin down that path or not. So that is where I’ll start.

It’s not rocket science, but breaking my big picture thinking into smaller, doable goals and steps has certainly helped me feel less overwhelmed by the nagging need to do something. The process has also helped me expend less energy generally. I am no longer exhausted because I’m spinning around in circles that don’t lead me to my goal in the end. I hope the same for you, too.

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