“Undecided” on what to read next? Try this.

Barbara and Shannon Kelly, a mother-daughter journalism duo from sunny California, wrote the book Undecided: How to Ditch the Endless Quest for Perfect and Find the Career—and Life —That’s Right for You’.

Undecided is an interesting, fun and honest read, that focuses on the unique challenges many women face in making critical life and job choices.  Familiar? While the press tends to assign this issue of the Quarter Life Crisis to Generation y-ers  (born in the 1970’s) , this book is definatly for women of all ages.  After all, who doesn’t suffer from indecision at some point in our lives? O.k. lets be honest, at least weekly, do I hear daily? Well, if the answer is hourly, perhaps I might recommend more than this book.smiley

I was lucky enough to speak with Barbara and Shannon and learn even more about both their philosophy and themselves.  I admit that it was hard to believe that they were mother-daughter, I mean really, they didn’t interrupt each other, they supported each other’s statements, never disagreeing, and not once did I hear an impatient “m-o-m!!” from Shannon.  I was already impressed and truthfully, hadn’t even finished the book yet!

Both accomplished writers in their own right, they have published articles everywhere from the Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, Salon.com, Redbook and many others. However, this idea began on a family hike (did I mention they live in beautiful California, sigh!!) when the topic of women, careers, and indecision came up.  Barbara, a professor of journalism at Santa Clara University, had lots of experience with young women starting on their career paths.  Shannon, a columnist at the Santa Barbara Independent, a freelance writer and photographer, and a personal/career coach, was in the trenches of the challenge of indecision as most of her friends (and at times herself) were living it.  Both felt the topic needed more attention, and the idea of the book was born.

The research began. Hundreds of conversations around the United States with women of all ages and stages were conducted.  Scholars, professors, psychotherapists were interviewed on the topic.  Books, research papers, media clips, you name it.  I have actually never seen a larger footnote section.  This process took 2 years to complete from that fateful hike. They joke that they managed to turn it in with a whole 5 minutes to sparewink The book was published in May of this year. The reviews and feedback have been fantastic.  Women see themselves in their writing and the readings they have done have been described as “sisterhoods”.  Women have been thrilled someone understands their plight.  There are even intersting discussion questions at the end to get you started in your own thinking or discuss with a friend.

This would be a good time to note that it is duly recognized in the book that not everyone woman can ponder their choices.  That having a roof over their heads, feeding their children and getting through the day is really the only thing on their wish list.

So what’s “Undecided” really about?

It is a detailed and many times quite humorous, exploration as to why this generation of wome, who clearly have more options than our mothers ever dreamed of, continually suffer from a terminal case of “grass-is-greener syndrome” and “analysis paralysis”. Stressed, restless and often depressed. Constantly second-guessing, wondering and pondering their choices. The “Kelleys” candidly discuss how they think women got to this frustrating place to begin with, why it affects women in particular, and how today's culture fuels our fears and distractions resulting in stress and unhappiness. Why?  Well their tops reasons are:

  1. While we as women owe so much to the female trailblazers before us who created endless opportunity, it has created difficulty in narrowing choices and making career decisions.
  2. The workplace is still not “friendly” enough for working mothers and even if the workplace is, the career ladder is not. 
  3. Parents, particularly of the younger women, were amongst the first generation “helicopter parents”, fearful of letting their kids experience failure, over “coddled” and over-protected.
  4. Women still, are responsible for an overwhelming amount of the household responsibilities.
  5. Women are simply hard wired differently than men. They are not often saddled with the self-doubt and negative self-talk of women.

Examining the psychology behind the pressure to choose, The Kelley’s argue that if women are going to succeed in rising above the often-crippling demands of the modern world they need to take action . . . starting with a serious shift in perspective.  They suggest all women:

  • Get rid of the “should’s” and the self-judgement, it is holding you back!
  • Be willing to let go of perfections, make friends with the term, “good enough”
  • Know your boundaries, if you need to leave at 5:00, do it.
  • Let go of the guilt, you just can’t please everyone all the time.
  • Make conscious decisions about career, home and kids because seriously, you can’t have it all.
  • Stop making comparisons it sucks the self-confidence right out of you.

Barbara and Shannon urge women to get in touch with their essential core selves, find out what happiness really means to them, and build upon that versus external influences. In the book they promote self-acceptance, individuality and making your own choices as key success factors. Blooming Betty couldn’t agree more.

Their wit, their tone and their antidotes clearly show their passion and knowledge on the subject of women. But what I liked most about the book was their empathy and encouragement for each woman’s personal journey. My suggestion: decide to read it!

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