While young, bouncing around and having a variety of experiences can be fun and eye-opening. Yet when individuals continue on the “keeping-my-options-open” path, they may end up distracted, scattered, and drifting. A lifetime of spontaneity and novelty can eventually leave a person feeling empty, shallow, and jaded. Relationships will lack depth and have little meaning. Work may not be enriching. Every moment is filled with questions such as “What next?” and “What else?”
Youthful or immature?
In mythology, the Puer aeternus, who represents the eternal child, moves around like a butterfly, delighting in Peter-Pan-like adventures and fearing the possibility of being trapped. People who embody the Puer adapt easily to new people and ideas. Yet they can be impulsive, impatient, and have difficulty focusing on a particular direction in life. Magnetic and charming when young, the Puer is emotionally juvenile and un-rooted as he gets older.
By keeping all our options open, we limit ourselves to the superficial. We eliminate some very meaningful possibilities from our life—the experience of a deep and committed relationship as well as dedicated and satisfying work.
It is like the classic situation in which the older man has a series of younger girlfriends. He may suddenly realize how empty his relationships are because there’s no love between them. It’s simply a relationship of convenience—money and power for youth and beauty. While this may sound appealing to some, imagine the depressing horror of being desired only for your money.
We must realize that there are no perfect choices. Even if marriages and careers don’t work out, at least we haven’t missed out on the richness of trying to live life with depth.
The continuous need to keep our options open is a choice that limits our lives in a substantial way. The fear of missing out comes from a need for anticipation, excitement, and busyness, which stems from discomfort with being still and present in the moment.
Individuals who fear commitment can best deepen life experience by getting in touch with their inner stillness, as unexciting as this may sound. Through being able to be still and present to one’s internal voice rather than to externalities, one can learn to appreciate, enjoy, and feel greater depth in all of the experiences in life without needing as much variety and constant stimulus.
This is not to suggest that we should commit to someone we are not in love with or to work that repels us. Yet by becoming more grounded and centered, we will lose our fear that we will be missing out by limiting our options. Instead, we will find that only by making commitments and choosing directions can we really experience the joy and awe of the simple wonders in life, the feeling of self-empowerment coming from dedication and depth within a field of work, and the strength and potency of a long-term committed relationship.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD