Why "keeping your options open" can totally hose you.

"I'm keeping my options open."

I'm a recruiter and a career coach. I hear this phrase with ridiculous frequency. I not only despise it (for some unexplainable, very likely irrational reason), I also feel strongly that, when you take this approach with your job search, career or LIFE?

You can completely hose yourself.

Shocking, I know. Because we are culturally conditioned to believe the OPTIONS are precisely what give us FREEDOM.

And that FREEDOM is a key element of HAPPINESS.

And HAPPINESS? Well that's one of of our primary life goals, right?


The problem, however, lies in the notion that keeping ones options open usually translates into not committing to any particular at all. And when you commit to no particular path one of two things will, invariably, happen:

  1. You will do nothing.  And while you mitigate the risk of picking incorrectly when you do nothing, you also all but eliminate your shot at marked growth and success. (Two things, by the way, that are known to contribute significantly to HAPPINESS.)
  2. You will just bumble along without deliberateness. This is sort of the aimless stepsister of doing nothing. The danger of this one is that bumbling can fool you into thinking you're taking deliberate steps, and picking options. Unfortunately, if you bumble along long enough? You may well find your grey-haired self contemplating your epitaph one day ... and wondering why you never chose a definitive, loud and clear, this-is-how-the-world-is-going-to-remember-me-dammit path.

And let's not even get going on the topic of how challenging it is to properly market yourself when you're steadfastly "keeping your options open."

No, not even I, the magical fairy of resume writing, can craft a killer resume for you when you're simultaneously pursuing a project management job...and a nursing career... or thinking about maybe becoming a full-time guitar teacher ... or...

I'm a firm believer that those who realize the most success in their careers and lives are those who pick a damned option, make a plan around that option, and make a take-no-prisoners sprint at it.

Sure, give yourself a timeframe. Say, "I'm going to give this option my full attention for 60-, 90-, 365-days, whatever. And definitely make an appointment with yourself at that 60-, 90-, 365-day mark to evaluate how things are going.

But pick something. Stop diluting your efforts and your potential for huge, gratifying leaps by continually "keeping your options open."

Choose thoughtfully, absolutely. Choose well (this goes for relationships, too, by the way). But for the love of God ...

Chose. Something.

Very few things in life are irreversible. So go experiment. Play. Learn. Commit.

You may just be astounded by how far you go when you shut down a few of those options.

How about you? I'd love to hear from anyone who has picked an option ... even when it was a terrifying, uncertain choice ... and had it pay off big time. Please share your stories in the comment section below.