Optionality, Commitment and Choosing A Path

Recently, I had a significant breakthrough in terms of my professional life and my overall direction.
There are several factors which led to this. Firstly, my first taste of finally being in full-time, stable employment, not having to worry about whether I was qualified for a job or not. I now had definitive proof I could in fact make it, which made me feel more confident in my current skillset and ability and not feel the need to keep upskilling indefinitely.
Beyond this, though, it was the culmination and bringing together of several strands of what had long been intellectual interests of mine. The role I’m currently in involves aspects of technology, systems and complexity thinking, economics and finance, as well as governance and public policy, all of which have been or are currently interests of mine. Granted, some of these aspects are only tangentially there in my current job. However, I do not believe it’s a coincidence that these themes have come together at once in the way they have.

Apart from my current job, these interests, though I did not realize until recently, also drove a lot of the side projects I worked on and was gravitated to. Even things such as topics I liked to discuss over at the Interintellect or with random people on Twitter tended to lean toward the subjects I mentioned before. It only makes sense, then, that I would lean toward these subjects and the patterns of thinking and action associated with those who take a keen interest in them, both in and out of my career.

While keeping your options open and exploring your interests is worthwhile, there comes a time where options can’t be preserved any longer and choices must be made. This necessitates lost opportunities, sacrifices and ‘missing out’, a perennial fear particularly among millennials. The pressure to constantly strive and chase after the latest high-status career or job title, no matter whether it’s a personal fit or not, seems to get stronger all the time. Optimization and optionality, paired together, can also be a means of procrastination and avoiding responsibility and commitment. I know this first-hand, as it has been a large driver of my previous behaviour. The fear of making a wrong or suboptimal choice led to indecision, analysis paralysis and ironically, missing out on far more than if I had just making a choice. By contrast, with picking an option, even if it may not be optimal, comes the chance for contentment, stability and the opening of new opportunities, within a more established and clearer frame.

I feel much more relaxed about the future since discarding career optionality for a clearer path. I now know what my strengths are, what are the weaknesses I need to work on and which skills can ultimately not be prioritized. Having made peace with closing off a large number of potential paths, I can now focus on the one I have committed to. With this, I can now also forgo what has been at times an almost relentless drive of self-improvement, optimization and upskilling in order to feel like I’m keeping up.
Along with this, I can finally place more energy into my oft-neglected social and personal life. Living in a more deliberate, balanced manner can only be a good thing for me in the long run.

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