One of my coaching colleagues told us a funny story of how her husband has what they call buffet anxiety. He gets really nervous when even thinking about going to buffets or “all you can eat” restaurants. He worries about what to choose to eat, what if he passes up something really good or what if he picks something not so good or what if he eats too much of everything the point of making himself sick. The full spread of enticing food choices stresses and immobilizes him.
At first this cracked me up. The term buffet anxiety stuck with me, though, and now I’ve come to see that we all – or at least all of the people I know – have some form of this tragically funny dis-ease. Most of us are at the feast of life. An entire banquet of intriguing and potentially delicious delights are laid out in front of us. We have so very many choices of people to be with, ways to connect with them, recreational activities to divert us (even if there are 57 channels and nothing on), books to read, classes to take, food to eat, amounts of food to eat, information to collect, blogs to read and even jobs to explore. Yep, we are at a feast alright, a buffet teaming with possibilities. Even if it feels like we have few choices for the vast majority of us in the industrialized world we have a very, very full buffet before us.
We are ill-equipped to handle this vast and virtually unimaginable feast of choices. Think of it. Think about how many fewer choices our grandparents had. Our grandparents and ancestors before them had way fewer personal choices to make (due to cultural limits) and many fewer consumer choices to make (due to products available) and way less people to connect with (due to communication and transportation technologies and a smaller population). Yes, they may still have been at the feast of life, but our feast is over the top compared to theirs. So, no, we aren’t all weak or crazy. This is a very big adaptation for us to make as a species. It’s perfectly understandable that as individuals we haven’t figured it out yet – or grown another stomach so we can digest it all.
With this unprecedented array of possibilities before us we are all like my colleague’s husband – we are suffering from varying amounts of buffet anxiety. We can agonize over our choices, we can gobble everything in sight so as not to miss anything good, we can completely forget what we were hungry for, we can make ourselves sick eating it all, we can starve ourselves out of fear of making a wrong choice, we can become intoxicated with the joy of all the experiences. We can completely lose our sense of direction and attention to what we really want when plates of dark chocolate covered strawberries catch our eye. Seriously, mountains of dark chocolate! Who could pass that by?
Those of us who have a hard time saying “no” to anything know what I’m talking about here. We are so far beyond some idea of boundaries. We are in way over our heads, drowning at the feast. I see the impact of buffet anxiety on my clients all the time. Many people come to life coaching because they want some balance in their lives. Or they want to finally reach that one elusive goal. Or they don’t even know what they really want because they’ve been overwhelmed for so long. All of these are feast related. The depth and breath of the choices before us and the resulting challenges so many choices present are way more than “just say no” or “make a list and do it” strategies can address. How we want to be while enjoying the feast of life is one of the big classes that each of us will take (and probably retake multiple times) at our individual Mystery School of Life (You know – that esoteric school we’re all attending as we figure out who we are, why we’re here, and what we need to learn in order to thrive and give our gifts).
There are many ways to approach buffet anxiety from a life coaching perspective. You’ll read more about my strategies over time here because I am intimately experienced with the challenges of abundance (for which I am very, very thankful). In fact, that’s one of my first steps – gratitude. When overwhelmed with choices, when plates of dark chocolate (in any number of forms) are waved before me, if I can pause long enough to simply be profoundly grateful for all the possibilities, something in me shifts. Gratitude some how brings me, even briefly, back to myself. It creates a momentary gap in the anxiety and frenzy of the experience. In this gap I can breathe and remember. I can regroup and reconnect with what has meaning for me. And out of that meaning I have a little more of a solid place to stand while I gaze at the feast. Being thankful doesn’t guarantee I’ll pass up that dark chocolate. It does give me some awareness and that’s one of the best starting place I know.
What do you notice about how you approach the feast of life? How are you with making choices, keeping your balance, knowing what satisfies you, saying yes and no to requests and possibilities? Passing up plates of dark chocolate? Or not?