You can do anything but you can’t do everything. People with wildly different viewpoints agree on this issue. The number of choices we have is killing many people’s ability to make any choice and stick with it. Either people are becoming paralyzed by the options and doing nothing, or they’re blindly picking one without weighing the effect it will have on the rest of their life.
This post contains affiliate links.
I’ve worked a ton of jobs. If I list all of them on my resume, it totals 17 and I’m only 41. I’ve also had some amazing adventures, like living in Hawaii twice and running my first marathon at 40. I’ve tried a lot of things and come to a conclusion shared by many others. You can do anything but you can’t do everything.
I’m going to introduce you to three people who have tackled this issue from different angles.
Dr. Kevin DeYoung
Dr. DeYoung is a pastor in the reformed tradition of the Protestant church. He writes mainly on theology and church policy, but occasionally delves into the social realm. His 2009 book, Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will, is a brisk read at around 110 pages and a tiny 5×7 format.
In it he argues that there are two wills of God. The will of decree, where God has told us specifically what will happen, and the will of desire, where we are told of God’s commands. DeYoung argues that the will of desire is such that, while we do come to God for direction, it’s less important to get a specific answer than to approach with humility and then confidently make the decision that seems best to us.
- What I’m saying is we should stop thinking of God’s will like a corn maze, or a tight-rope, or a bull’s-eye, or a choose-your-own-adventure novel. (p. 25)
- My point is that we should spend more time trying to figure out how to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God (as instructed in Micah 6:8) as a doctor or a lawyer and less time worrying about whether God wants us to be a doctor or a lawyer. (p. 45)
- So the end of the matter is this: Live for God. Obey the Scriptures. Think of others before yourself. Be holy. Love Jesus. And as you do these things, do whatever else you like, with whomever you like, wherever you like, and you’ll be walking in the will of God. (p. 122)
Dr. James C. Petty
Dr. Petty is a former member of the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation and currently executive director of the Children’s Jubilee Fund. His 1999 book, Step by Step: Divine Guidance for Ordinary Christians (Resources for Changing Lives), is similar to that of Dr. DeYoung yet it approaches things in a much more detailed manner.
Dr. Petty doesn’t delve into the myriad of choices but stays focused on how popular patterns of “seeking God’s will” measure up to Scripture, especially the idea that there is no Plan B with God. He gives several examples from his life, and the lives of his friends, to walk through the process of figuring out what you want to do in life even if that means a late career change. He breaks the book into three sections on guidance and a fourth that gives us seven elements of biblical decision making. The appendix even has a handy chart he developed as part of his counseling practice to help you get a grip on where you are right now.
- We will see that for those who are in Christ, there is only one plan, Plan A…God does have one specific plan for your life and the events and choices of your life irresistibly and sovereignly work that plan in every detail. (p. 59)
- What is often called the “individual will of God” should be seen simply as the application of God’s commands and character to the specifics of our lives. (p. 101)
- On some matters, God has not established a preference between one good and moral option and another. In those cases, he has given us a freedom and responsibility in decision making. (p. 169)
Mark Manson is not a Christian, he’s someone who brilliantly uses four letter words like punctuation to get across points to an audience that likely wouldn’t hear it any other way. Manson’s 2016 book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life, is a magnificent look into how we should approach developing our values and then basing our goals off of that.
For this comparison, I’m referring to his 2014 blog post: No, You Can’t Have It All. In it, Manson covers a story relating to opportunity cost and then extrapolates that out to our own decision making. He puts special emphasis on the reality that modern culture and society keeps developing more and more things we could do. With that understood, he points out that more opportunities also means more potential opportunity costs. He even suggests the connectivity we now have exacerbates the issue by bombarding us with what everyone else is doing.
- Enter the concept of “FOMO” or “Fear of Missing Out.” We live a life that is constantly pelted with reminders of everything we are unable to become.
- In my experience, the people who struggle with the so-called “life purpose” question, always complain that they don’t know what to do. But the real problem is not that they don’t know what to do. It’s that they don’t know what to give up.
- What if the solution is simply accepting our bounded potential, our unfortunate tendency as humans to inhabit only one place in space in time. What if we recognize our life’s limitations and then prioritize what we care about based on those limitations?
- What if it’s as simple as stating, “This is what I choose to value more than everything else,” and then living with it?
Or, maybe Emilie Wapnick is right and you can have it all. http://howtobeeverything.com/
What are you going to do about it?
What choices are you going to make? How are you going to discern the best options for yourself? How can you go about being satisfied with your decisions without constantly second guessing yourself?