The Privilege Of Having Too Many Choices
You have a choice to either read this blog post or not. Simple choice, right? Or you can choose reading one of 100 other blog posts on the same topic. Then, which one to choose?
I’m sure you are familiar with this feeling of having too many choices. We are no strangers to the paradox of choice. We all aim for alternatives to maximize our happiness. However, most of the time, with an abundance of choices, it’s turning into a burden rather than happiness.
“When people have too many choices, they make bad choices.” — Thom Browne
Fear Of Missing Out
As the number of choices increases, so does the effort required to collect information and make proper decisions. An excess of choices can lead to fatigue and can make people feel dissatisfied with the experience.
I found myself in this situation when I needed a new laptop, sneakers, suitable health insurance, joining a gym, and most importantly, making life decisions. Not only did I feel mentally exhausted when I have too many options, but also, once I’ve decided, I was often left over with an anxious feeling that I might have missed something important.
“Learning to choose is hard. Learning to choose well is harder. And learning to choose well in a world of unlimited possibilities is harder still, perhaps too hard.” — Barry Schwartz
The Possibility Of Possibility
Søren Kierkegaard, a Danish philosopher, suggested that anxiety is linked to the possibility of possibility. And when possibilities become too great, this anxiety turns us to denial.
This was exactly what happened to me when I wanted to subscribe to a membership at a gym. Due to a choice overload, where I was confronted with so many options, I started to deny what I want and decided to wait. My need and desire to wait and to keep my options open were far greater than deciding, and this became an obsession. I spent hours and days searching and comparing until I was exhausted and talked myself out of it.
“Our life always expresses the result of our dominant thoughts.” — Søren Kierkegaard
Choice Can Be Good
According to Barry Schwartz, a psychologist and author of the book The Paradox of Choice, choice can be good occasionally, but most people find the absurd amount of choices available these days to be overwhelming. When I was unable to efficiently handle too many choices, I became somewhat paralysed and it slowed down my productivity and progress.
Schwartz also mentioned that increased choices can make us unhappy, because we tend to experience regret, self-blame, opportunity costs and an increase in high expectations. When you combine all this choice with unreasonably high standards, a person can be prone to prolonged sadness and depression.
“The secret to happiness is low expectations.” — Barry Schwartz
Yet as challenging as choices can be, I believe we have to appreciate the fact that our ancestors didn’t have this privilege in the past. They were restricted to little or no options and were deprived of the freedom to choose. Once we look at it from this perspective, we should feel fortunate to have the freedom to create our lives based on who we are and who we would like to become in the future.
Here is the thing: You can’t choose your intentions consciously until you become aware of the different aspects of your personality. If you aren’t conscious of yourself, no matter how much you want your life to move in a specific direction, you’ll find that it ends up moving in another.
“The ability to have a choice in what you do is a privilege.” — Anton Yelchin
So, firstly, we need to stay connected to the core of our being and be conscious of important aspects of our personality when making a choice.
Secondly, we need to change our attitude towards the choices available to us by getting comfortable with the idea of “good enough”.
Thirdly, and this is one of the most important lessons I have learned, to centre yourself.
You rarely make good decisions when you’re in a state of anxiety, worry and fear. The quality of consciousness that you bring when assessing each choice affects every following action and thought. When you cling grimly to your choices, it certainly leads to stress, bad decisions, dissatisfaction and even depression.
Also, when you’re tired or stressed, try to conserve your mental energy by making choice based on only one or two factors, and leaving out all the other significant determinants that go into making the best decision. The key is to “cool” your nervous system and basically “chill out” when making choices.
During the evaluation process, check in with yourself and take a step back to engage in activities that get you focussed, such as meditation, exercise, yoga, listening to music, painting or any other hobby that induces a state of peace and flow.
Your journey is ultimately about creating a life that you love, and which represents your ideals and purposes. Your choices reflect the essence of who you are, and you should use them as an instrument to demonstrate your personal power and the legacy that you would like to leave behind.
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