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Archive for the ‘grass-is-greener’ Category

Life lessons via Woody Allen? Who knew.

Surely by now you have seen his latest, Midnight in Paris, a sweet little movie that is both a love letter to Paris with a few big questions tucked inside the laughs. To wit: Do we idealize what we don’t have? Are we in love with a fantasy — and does that love affair sometimes throw us over the edge?

For those of you who have not yet seen the movie, it’s not too much of a spoiler to note that Gil, the main character played by Owen Wilson, has fallen head over heels for a glorious Paris of a bygone era, the one that is inhabited by writers and artists such as Ernest Hemmingway, Scott (and Zelda) Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, and Salvador Dali. In the world according to Woody, Gil falls into a time wrinkle and dances and drinks with them all each night after the clock strikes 12.

It’s heady and exciting and romantic as well: Gil’s vision of the perfect life. And yet. What he eventually learns is this:  when you idealize the past, you put yourself in danger of missing out on the present.

It’s a lesson we women could take to heart. So many of us have been raised with the fantasy not of another era – but of the perfect life. It’s a pervasive message – you can have it all, you can do it all, you can be it all – and, the biggest scam of all, it’s all going to be perfect.

Except when it isn’t.

And yet, like our hapless hero in Midnight in Paris, once we’ve been fed on the fantasy, we continue to chase it as Gil does by hopping into a vintage Peugeot cabriolet each night that transports him to Gertrude Stein’s salon. But when our day-to-day reality falls short of the ideal – as it often does — we look to the other side of the fence, the path not taken, and assume the world we imagine, our own personal Paris of the 1920s, is so much better than it actually is.

And there you have it. Grass-is-greener syndrome as explained by Woody Allen.

All of which makes us wonder: does our romantization of that other reality lead us to second guess our choices?  Convince ourselves that someone out there is always doing it better, faster – and having more fun (and thanks for that, facebook friends)?

We know in our hearts that perfection is nothing but a pipedream, and yet the messaging tells us otherwise:  we’ll have it all it all – career, marriage, family and granite in the kitchen.  And all of it will be just as advertised, thank you very much.  But even when it is, as tennis icon Billie Jean King reminded us on the 50th anniversary of her first Wimbledon title, perfection is only a momentary hit of Nirvana.  Last week, NPR’s Susan Stamberg asked King, who won her first title at 17 and proceeded to win 20 more, what it felt like to hit a perfect shot.  Check her response:

Ms. KING: It feels like it’s mind, body and soul totally integrated for one perfect moment and you feel like you’re one with yourself and one with the universe all in a very split moment.

STAMBERG: The first time you do it, do you have time to stop and think, gee, I just did that, or is it just all moving so fast?

Ms. KING: No, no, it’s just a split moment. You’re in and out. You’re totally in the process, in the moment. That’s when you’re in the zone in anything. And all you do in life, if you’re engaged in the moment, that’s when life, I find, is the most, you know, it’s most gratifying.

And that’s the secret: Living in the moment, with all its beautiful imperfections.  Which leads us back to Midnight in Paris. The film  wraps with a dose of happily-ever-after as well as an epiphany that makes sense for us all: The present is a little unsatisfying because life itself is a little unsatisfying.

And that’s just fine with us.

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Remember when you were a kid, and you wanted to pierce your belly button or stay out all night, and you’d say to your mom, “But mooooom, everyone else is doing it!”? And then she’d say, “If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you?” And then, if you were feeling especially petulant, you might say, “Well yeah. There’d be no one left to play with.”

No one wants to be left behind. (After all, how much fun would it be if all your friends had jumped off the bridge, leaving you standing alone, like the proverbial cheese?) And, in a way, that feeling never goes away.

Once we’re all grown up, how much do such feelings interfere with our decisions? How often are the things we pick for our lives influenced by a little unconscious–and not so unconscious–desire to head off becoming the cheese? How often are the milestones (marriage, advanced degree, corner office, fat apartment in the city, fat home in the ‘burbs, fat baby in the stroller) we shoot for not, if we were to think about it, the result of us really assessing what we want for our lives, but just sort of assumed? Everyone else is doing it…

It’s not that we’re mindless lemmings, of course. But have you noticed how the nuances of friendship play a role in our choices—and how our choices play a role in our friendships? Conflicts, particularly between women, have a lot to do with choices. Defending what we’ve chosen for our lives—and what we’ve chosen to leave behind. Judging our friends’ choices. Interpreting the fact that our friend has chosen something different as her judgment (and rejection) of what we’ve chosen for ourselves. The distance that grows when we feel like (because we’ve chosen differently or believe we would choose differently if we were in her shoes) we can no longer relate to the women to whom we’re closest.

Like the kid afraid of being left all alone on the bridge, each of us, at one time or another, has been left feeling like the oddball exception. And that feeling can mess with the decisions we make–and often, the really important ones. The ones that take our lives in one direction or another. How often do we steer ourselves into what we believe is the culturally-approved path, make decisions based on what we think we should do, what we should want?

Take, for example, those of us who secretly just want a “paycheck job,” the kind you show up for at 9, leave at 5, and don’t think about til 9 the next day. But we’ve absorbed the idea that it’s not enough, that there’s something wrong with us to merely want a job when we can have a Career–so we kill ourselves to meet some grand milestone we think we should want, quietly wondering all the while: Why am I doing this, again?

Maybe the conventional ideas about the ‘American Dream’ are the ones that tug at us: steady career path, home ownership, husband, kids. Everybody else seems to want those things, right? Surely we must be insane for being more interested in adventure than security. So we opt for the safe path, daydreams of running off to join the circus growing all the more tantalizing with each mortgage bill.

Or maybe it’s the notion of having it all, the Superwoman icon that keeps us quiet. We see other women smoothly managing it all. Or so we think. So we struggle to keep our heads above water, never letting on that we’re one cupcake away from going postal, never even questioning what parts of “it all” we really want, what is really worth wanting for us–because, well, let’s be honest, who has the time?

The thing about women having the unprecedented number of options we do today, having all sorts of ways to structure our lives, to cobble together our own reality made up of some parts work, some parts fun, some parts family—well, it’s new. We don’t have centuries of role models to look to for guidance. And nothing’s perfect. And so, when we’re having One Of Those Days, maybe we start to question the way we’re doing it. We wonder: should I be doing what she’s doing?

But instead of all of this silent comparing, the assumptions and judgment, what if we instead took a moment to think, to realize that we each have our own path—and just because our friends are doing something different doesn’t mean they think we’re making a mistake. That they might have just as many moments of questioning themselves and their decisions as we do. And if that’s the case, then maybe the best way to deal would be to start talking. Maybe, if we can all summon up the bravery to be a little more honest, we’d realize that we’re actually in good company. No matter how different our choices.

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So I confess.  I was ambushed by the green-eyed Facebook monster over the Memorial Day weekend.  I spent most of mine sitting at the dining table, gazing longingly out at our backyard, grading papers. Welcome to my life at the end of the quarter.

So you can guess that all those posts and pix from FB friends at picnics and barbeques and baseball games, spending time with friends and family, left me just a little bit deflated.  Lusting after that greener grass.   Because surely, all those happy faces and cheery posts mean those folks were doing it better, enjoying more life, and having more fun.  Right?

And then (okay, procrastination is  good for the soul), I ran into a blog post that, in a small way, reminded me that the thing that we daydream about when we wish we were doing something else, that thing that from the outside looks like heaven here on earth — usually isn’t.

Case in point.  The glamorous life of a travel writer.  If you love to travel and, you know, you write for a living (or think you should) well, what could be better?  Sigh.  If only. But, as Pam (AKA “Nerd’s Eye View) writes in a post entitled “Why I’m not a full-time Travel Writer”, once you’re on the inside, you realize that the reality is quite different from the fantasy.  She’s a travel writer, who pays the bills as a technical writer, and she provides a dose of reality as to what that dream career is really like.  The whole post is great, but here’s the nut:

Next month is the Travelblog Exchange (TBEX), a conference for travel bloggers. I had dearly wanted there to be some kind of reality check discussion, not because I want to depress hopeful writers, but because I wanted to blow away some of that fiction around what it really means to be a travel writer by profession. X1, who writes for a prestigious publication and travels a lot has told me, “Yeah, it’s great. I love the work. But I’m poor. I live in a tiny apartment.” X2 admitted to winning big in the technology lottery and living off those funds. X3 has a full time day job and a spouse with a full time day job. X4 admits to churning out fluffy, uninteresting stories for custom publication markets.

The folks I know who are full time freelance travel writers are in a continuous cycle of pitch, write, edit, research, travel, repeat. It’s a lot of work, and it’s not clear to me that money is that good. I know a few staffers, too, and you know what? They’re just like your friends with day jobs. They have meetings and process and office politics and frustrations. Sure, they get to go some places, but so does the outside sales guy, and he doesn’t have to see his story eviscerated before it goes to press.

What I wanted at TBEX was a session that presented the reality of writing as a profession, not as a quixotic pursuit or a weekend hobby or gap year boondoggle. Admittedly, I wanted this for myself as much as anything. Because I struggle with what I do (what is that, anyways?) all the time. I wanted to hear people who I think of as grown up, professional travel writers speak honestly about how they juggle all this stuff, how they manage to make it work. I’m always grateful for time with writers who will share, honestly, how they get by — a recent conversation revealed a writer’s need to sell multiple stories about one destination with every trip in order to make the travel pay off. “I can’t go just because I want to. I need to sell that story five times over to have it be worth my while.”

There are those who have made the jump to an itinerant lifestyle, bugging out to places where the low pay is enough, effectively outsourcing this work to places where 30 dollars goes much further than it does in my chosen home. That’s not something I’m willing to do. And keep in mind some basic math — even were I to make 1000/month blogging, I could not live on my annual income. There are also some who manage to generate a decent income, but they have a highly targeted market, they have a sophisticated understanding of what the web likes, they are backing up all their words with the sale of a product or service that people want to buy. Having none of those things, I don’t expect to live off the first person scribblings of this blog.

You should also read the comments to this post that, at this point, number 101. All of which is to say that, when we’re toiling away in a cubicle (or the dining room table) dreaming of that killer job that involves only a backpack and a laptop — we’re probably blinded by the rose-colored glasses.

The travel writing gig — it’s just a small example.  But there are other dreams out there just like them.  (Insert yours) Which is absolutely not to say we shouldn’t follow our dreams.  (Ack.  Double negative.  Sorry!)  Or that we shouldn’t do what we can to make them happen.  Not at all.

The lesson is this.   Life is complicated.  Messy.  Rarely is it perfect.  There are always trade-offs.  And that grass?  Usually not as green as it looks from the other side of the fence.

And oh, by the way.  Memorial Day?  Just about the time my second red pen ran out of ink, got an invite for a last minute barbeque at a friend’s house.  It was goddamn delicious.  In every possible way.

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This one’s a taboo buster, people, buckle up.

So, last week, the Santa Barbara independent published a couple of excerpts from Undecided as its (incredibly illustrated!) cover story. One was long; one was medium; one was wee—just one lonely paragraph. But an important one. Despite the fact that I picked it (and, you know, wrote it), I honestly don’t think I realized just how important, actually, until I got a long email from a dear friend who lost her father last year. It was a catching-up variety email, but she’d seen the story, and ended the note with a sharp aside:

P.S. your book is unmistakably about loss. Do we just need to grieve more?

If you’re thinking she’s got the wrong book, here is the excerpt in question:

Here comes some wisdom, (from Daria Todor, an Employment Assistance Counselor, career coach, and psychotherapist who has dealt with thousands of women in the workplace for the past 20 years). “Every decision entails trade-off, and it entails commitment,” she says. “And with that comes the sense of grief and loss. You make a commitment to one thing, you are by definition turning your back on other options. Not knowing how to grieve a loss is really powerful. And I believe that a lot of what shows up in a therapist’s office as depression may be a form of this grieving that is a natural part of growing up. And so there’s an avoidance of making a decision because of the pain threshold.”

Think about it. Could the woman be more right on the money??

Interestingly, late last week I was on the local radio station, and the host of the show—a dude—brought up another item from the Indy story, from a different excerpt, that he just couldn’t get his head around.

Chloe’s story cuts to the chase: “I was walking home from work, having a low self-esteem day, and I saw this sign in a storefront. It was of three smiling women, around my age, and I just thought to myself, I bet they all have kids.”

Chloe doesn’t even want to have children — an assertion she reiterated before admitting that, nevertheless, it didn’t stop her tears. “I just feel like life is passing me by.”

For the record, Chloe is amazing and enviable in her own right: She’s lived and worked everywhere from New York City to Brazil, Mexico to Southern California, and she is successful, beautiful, talented, and happily married. But those things never seem to matter much when we’re confronted with the green-grassed monster; when we catch a glimpse of the place where that road we opted not to travel may have led.

“I’m a guy; help me understand this,” he said, seeming quite honestly flummoxed.

And so I answered–and my answer had to do with grief: Consciously, we might not want to have kids, but as women, I think the vast majority of us grew up with the unconscious assumption that we would. And so, I said to the baffled man-host, maybe Chloe just needed to take a moment, to allow herself to consciously grieve the children she’d never have; the mother she’d never be.

(Interestingly, though, even while the words were spilling forth, I don’t think I would have said that the matter at hand was grief. I needed my friend, my friend who’s in the thick of it and can therefore recognize it, I guess, to point it out for me. Even when what she was pointing out were, in fact, my words.)

And that idea applies not just to the kids question. For women who’ve been told we can do anything—well, I think that somewhere, deep down (and not so deep down), there lies the assumption that we will do everything. And so whenever we sign on to do one thing, there’s a whole bunch of other things we’re signing off on. Maybe we don’t ever write them off outright, but, with every day that passes, certain dreams grow more and more out of reach. And maybe, just maybe, all of that leaves us with a little bit of latent grief, lurking within. Maybe that grief is showing up as something else, but, more and more, I believe that it’s there.

Feeling uncomfortable yet? Me too. I also happen to think that this whole issue is made worse by the fact that our culture is not exactly what you’d call ‘grief-friendly.’ I can think of few subjects more roundly avoided.

And I think Todor makes another important point: that we avoid making decisions not just because we’ve been told we can do anything and are therefore holding out for the perfect thing, but also because we’re avoiding the pain of closing a door. We’re avoiding the grieving that will entail. And no wonder: is anything less allowed in our culture? Where happiness is the holy grail, and achieving it in its most perfect form is national sport? Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt, and spending our days adrift upon it, driven by its current, well, where does that get us, other than deeper?

The whole thing just kind of makes me wonder: would the decisions we make every day, big and small, be so hard if we knew how to grieve? If our culture recognized it, allowed it, showed us how to do it in a healthy way? Would it make decisions easier, if, rather than hopping on a raft on that river, we were allowed—and encouraged—to recognize the shadow side of our choices: those things we aren’t choosing? And to take a moment to be sad, to say goodbye?


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As F-words go, Fix might be one of the ugliest.  As in, if your life measures low on the perfection scale, just go for the fix.  Change the externals.  Happiness to follow.

It’s enough to make you drop an F-bomb of an entirely different sort.

This all came to mind Wednesday when our morning paper came with a special insert:  a glossy magazine called Scene: Silicon Valley’s Guide to Style. Not sure whether every subscriber got the mag or whether it was targeted to specific zipcodes, but here’s what I found on the well-laid out pages:  Fashion, make-up, be-the-best-you-can-be features all wrapped around copious ads from local purveyors of pretty — from hair salons to designers to plastic surgeons.

The stuff of the typical woman’s magazine, yes?  But here’s what shook me.  A chunk of the pages were devoted to fixing, as in everything from fertility to flab — and in major ways.   I’ll get to specifics in a minute, but first this:   The editor of this magazine is one smart cookie.  Brilliant, funny, savvy — and one of the last people who would ever be part of the presumed media cabal that conspires to make women feel bad about themselves.  In other words, as feminist as the rest of us.  So why this focus on the big fix?

What I think is that the editor knows her demographic:  this is the kind of aspirational stuff that many women want to read.  Because, bottom line, they’re dissatisfied.  Lusting after some greener grass and looking for a quick fix to get there.  Chasing perfection.  And buying into the subtext that anything short of capital-P-perfect is the equivalent of another F-word.  Fail.  So fix it, already.  Will someone love you just the way you are?  Sorry, piano man.  Apparently, you had it all wrong.

Now.  Lest you think I’m ranting about articles about changing your life with new shades of lipstick or little fitted blazers, here’s the troika that got me all afluster.  The first was a feature on pricey fertility treatments, all with limited success rates — from meds that have been around for decades to cutting-edge pre-implantation genetic screening.   All good.  I agree.  But what struck me was the underlying message:  If it’s infertility that has made your life less than perfect, science will fix it for you.  And, apparently, it’s never too late.  One of the reproductive specialists said, somewhat self-congratulatory, that his cutoff point for treatment, based on his own set of ethics, is…. fifty.  Fifty?

Actually, becoming a first-time mama at age 50 might make sense, in light of a second piece that tackled one more aspect of the perfect life:  longevity.  When you’re studiously attempting to perfect all aspects of your life, death is clearly the ultimate buzz kill, right?  The story profiles author Sonia Arrison, a transhumanist, who believes that the miracles of science and technology can make “radical longevity” a reality.   The fountain of youth, as it were: living to age 150.  What got her thinking in that direction was an episode of Extreme Makeover, where a man and woman had just had head-to-toe surgery that completely changed their appearance.  At which point Arrison became entranced with the idea that people could completely change the way they look and feel through science and technology.  Fix your face, fix your life?

Surely, you’ve caught my drift.  If not, there’s this feature included in the bride guide.  Head: “The perfect bride.”  And deck:  “These cosmetic fixes can help make you the belle of the ball.”  We’re not just talking teeth whitening.  Among the slate of fixes: liquid lifts, or fillers injected into your wrinkles for a fuller, younger-looking face; “lunchtime lipo” treatments; lifts to get rid of those saggy, baggy upper arms as well as lifts to vanish unsightly back fat (back fat?!); and a botox underarm treatment to eliminate sweat.  Because, you know, a wedding is about how you look, right?  As opposed to, say, marriage.

The message, of course, is that the perfect life is not only about the externals, but it’s yours for the money.   But here’s the punchline:  Research has shown that when it comes to what we call “happiness”, only about 10 percent of it is related to  changed circumstances –  where you live, where you work, what you drive, how you look.  The rest derives from genetic makeup and life itself – and how you deal with it.  There’s also something called the “hedonic treadmill”, a theory that humans rapidly adapt to a new situation, whether good or bad.  Which is why lottery winners and victims of horrific accidents often have the same level of happiness a few years down the line.

In other words, if it’s satisfaction, or even happiness, you’re after — look inside.  Which is why we’ve got a better F-word for you:  Rather than fix yourself, find yourself.  Ahem.  We wrote a book about that.

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In case you occasionally channel your inner adolescent, you oughta stay away from Facebook.    It’s not because — as in the days when the Mean Girls were the scourge of seventh grade — you will be judged.  It’s because you will  judge them — and find yourself falling short by comparison.

Compare.  Contrast.  Fail.

You don’t have to know from Justin Beiber to realize this is not necessarily rocket science:  Even though we all know that facebook personas are carefully curated — we do it ourselves, after all — a new study published this week in Pediatrics suggests that while we know our own profiles might be a bit, um, varnished, we tend to get sucked right in to whatever our friends post.  In other words, we believe.  We think they have more fun.

According to the study:

Researchers have proposed a new phenomenon called “Facebook depression,” defined as depression that develops when preteens and teens spend a great deal of time on social media sites, such as Facebook, and then begin to exhibit classic symptoms of depression.  Acceptance by and contact with peers is an important element of adolescent life. The intensity of the online world is thought to be a factor that may trigger depression in some adolescents.

No one can say for sure whether it’s cause and effect or a simple correlation, but here’s what the study’s lead author, Dr. Gwenn O’Keefe, told the Associated Press:

But there are aspects of Facebook that can make it a particularly tough social landscape to navigate for kids dealing with poor self-esteem, said Dr. Gwenn O’Keeffe, a pediatrician and lead author of new American Academy of Pediatrics social-media guidelines published today in the group’s journal, Pediatrics.

With in-your-face friends’ tallies, status updates and photos of happy-looking people having great times, Facebook pages can make some kids feel even worse if they think they don’t measure up.

It can be more painful than sitting alone in a crowded school cafeteria or other real-life encounters that can make kids feel down, O’Keeffe said, because Facebook provides a skewed view of what’s really going on. Online, there’s no way to see facial expressions or read body language that provide context.

Maybe yes?  Maybe no?  But even when we’re no longer teenagers chasing after those girls who have more fun, is there still a trace of that insecurity that wakes up whenever we get sucked into the great comparison game, the often unintended consequence of social media?  Do we search for constant validation in the form of a “like” button?  Do we end up with one more measure by which we judge ourselves?  Do we saddle up for another frantic chase after all the trappings of our iconic self?

We may have outgrown our awkward adolescent selves, but still, there’s that lingering need to compare, which is facilitated by the minute-to-minute status updates that are up in our face whenever we care to check.  On the one hand, we’re trying to make our way in this brave new land of unlimited options without a roapmap or much in the way of generational role models.  But then, right there, with the click of a button, there’s someone out there who looks to be doing it better, faster, righter — and having a lot more fun.

And just like that, we’re all about the greener grass, living the life of “if only..”   We tend to forget that sometimes life is grand, and sometimes it sucks.  But most of the time, it just is.  As Shannon wrote a while ago:
Women today have every choice–and every one of us is, at some point or another, terrified we’ve made the wrong ones. Is it any wonder, then, that we treat our public personas like we might a disssertation: something we must present and defend? Here is my choice, and look how great it is! I have achieved the American Dream–witness husband and spawn! Or: I’m single and successful and fancy-free–witness the world travels and amazing fun! When in reality, of course, both are bullshit. Because life is life and it’s fabulous at times and at other times there are diapers to change or douchebags to date, and either way there’s bills to pay… But just because we’ve come up against yet another dirty diaper–or douchebag–does not mean we chose wrong.
But back to that notion of the carefully crafted Facebook persona.   Full disclosure:  The hot-off-the-press copy of our book came in the mail Saturday morning, and before I had a chance to comb my hair or wash my face, my husband grabbed a camera and snapped a shot of me holding it, grinning from ear to ear.   He thought the picture was cute.  Me?  Yeah, not so much.  I immediately posted the pix on our Facebook page — only after I cropped out my face.

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Thanks for the offer.  But let’s just have some chocolate cake and call it a day.

More about this cake business later, but first, there’s this:  Newsweek is the latest to hop aboard the streetcar named Can’t Decide — our own trek for the past two years — with its current cover story on the “twitterization” of our culture, or why we can’t think.

The story references research by Angelika Dimoka, director of the Center for Neural Decision Making at Temple University, who found that information overload mucks with our ability to make decisions — and control our emotions:

“With too much information, ” says Dimoka, “people’s decisions make less and less sense.”

So much for the ideal of making well-informed decisions. For earlier generations, that meant simply the due diligence of looking things up in a reference book. Today, with Twitter and Facebook and countless apps fed into our smart phones, the flow of facts and opinion never stops. That can be a good thing, as when information empowers workers and consumers, not to mention whistle-blowers and revolutionaries. You can find out a used car’s accident history, a doctor’s malpractice record, a restaurant’s health-inspection results. Yet research like Dimoka’s is showing that a surfeit of information is changing the way we think, not always for the better. Maybe you consulted scores of travel websites to pick a vacation spot—only to be so overwhelmed with information that you opted for a staycation. Maybe you were this close to choosing a college, when suddenly older friends swamped your inbox with all the reasons to go somewhere else—which made you completely forget why you’d chosen the other school. Maybe you had the Date From Hell after being so inundated with information on “matches” that you chose at random. If so, then you are a victim of info-paralysis.

We devoted a whole chapter in our book to the science of decision making (and several posts, like this one, from over a year ago)  Like Newsweek, we found that too many options sends the brain into overdrive, at which point it often says screw it and just goes off to bed.  Also like Newsweek, we found that the constant beep and buzz of the electronica that has become a part of our every waking moment just adds to the chaos, making it close to impossible for us to make a decision — or be happy with it when we do.

A lot revolves around a pivotal 1950’s study, cleverly titled “Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two”, that found that your rational brain can only hold about seven different things in working memory at any one time.  More than that, and your head starts spinning.  Ms. Rational Brain is likely to say “I quit” — and cede control to the emotional brain.

If you’re thinking this can’t end well, you’d be right.  This is where the chocolate cake comes in.

Several decades after that pivotal study, a Stanford marketing professor named Baba Shiv tested the theory with a bunch of hungry college students.  He had one group memorize two-digits — and the other group, seven.  Afterward, they were offered their choice of reward — fruit salad or gooey chocolate cake — and guess what happened?  The crew that was overloaded with info overwhelmingly chose cake.  The two-digit folks?  Fruit salad, please.

You can guess which group might have had some regrets a little later.  Which brings us to our point.  When you are overloaded with information — or options — decision making becomes a labyrinth of twists and turns that rarely has a happy ending.  We second-guess.  We regret. We start jonesing for the greener grass.   Add the constant distractions of Facebook, Twitter, smartphones and [insert Next Big Thing here] and it’s no wonder we can’t decide what to have for dinner, much less what to do with our lives.

All of which is that much worse for women when it comes to what-do-I-do-now decisions.  Why?  Generational, sister.  Suddenly we’re faced with more options than our mothers or grandmothers ever thought possible, and we’re running the road without a map.  Or role models, either.  We can be doctors.  We can be lawyers.  We can run off to join the circus.  We can stay home to raise  kids.  We can stay home to write books.  We can do anything.  We can do everything.  So how do we choose? Especially when, as Shannon wrote on Tuesday, we live on a steady diet of news feeds, tweets and other app-philia from the land of perfect, all of which seem to proclaim:  Look at me!  I’ve gotten it right.  Ahem, and you?

And me?  Sigh.   There’s more about the science of decision making in the Newsweek piece, and lots more than that in Chapter 5 of our book.  And in fact, I could add quite a bit more to this post.   But you know what?  There’s chocolate cake in the office down the hall, and I’m headed that way.   And you don’t have to tell me:  You want some too.

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