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Browsing or searching?

Earlier today, I decided to buy a pair of shoes and went to the mall. That's when I realised that malls are built for browsing and are quite awful for someone that knows exactly what to buy. I had to walk around the entire mall to find a place that sold men's shoes and then figure out what I wanted among all the things they had on display.

Had I stuck to my usual way of ordering from a website, I would have fared a lot better. 

But many of my friends prefer to go to the store to buy the things they need, especially when it is clothes and accessories. They tell me they prefer to browse than to search and happen upon the things they like. And on the occasions they don't find anything they like, they return without making a purchase. 

We have the same two options in our career choices, in what skills we want to learn, what friends we want to make, and what habits we want to pick up.

We can take a 'I'll know it when I find it' approach and browse for the things we want. Or we can be deliberate about what we want and chart a path to get there.

While browsing, we often make decisions in order to avoid regret. 'What if the sale is over when I actually want this?' 'What if somebody else takes it and they are out of stock by the time I actually need it?' 

We start habits, we make acquaintances, we take career steps from a mindset where we do not want to regret passing up on an opportunity later. Since we are browsing and don't have a deliberate goal in mind, we have no basis to evaluate whether this fits in with our plans or not. We pick up everything and everyone that we can carry along the way simply because we can and because we don't want to realise later that we passed up earlier on what we now need.

While searching, we make decisions that fit with the larger picture and the plan we have laid out. We make decisions in order to accelerate the path to the destination we are interested in.

We are more comfortable saying no to opportunities, to invites and to interesting ideas when they do not fit with what we have planned for ourselves. 

One of the great pieces of advice is to hone our ability to say no more often. But it is not simply about saying no. We need to have an alternative planned that we know is more important in order for us to say no to something else that comes along. In the absence of which, it becomes a lot harder to say no. And we end up pursuing every new opportunity that we come across.

Are you browsing or searching?

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