They call us the information age. The technology age. The Millennials. No matter what they call us, there’s one thing they all believe to be true about us, and so should we: today, right in this moment, we have more options than any group of people has had before us.
“Bali or Mauritius? Al Mallah or Al Reef? Pilot or Engineer?”
We have a finite number of hours everyday and within those 24 hours, an interminable number of decisions to make. But wait a second, that’s a good thing right? One can argue that the more choices we have, the more autonomy we have and thus the greater our emotional and mental wellbeing.
Here comes the paradox of choice. Is this abundance of options keeping us from making those decisions that matter the most? Does the sheer magnitude of decisions leave us conflicted where we don’t know what we want anymore?
I just can’t help but wonder – is there such a thing as having ‘too’ many options?
Have you ever wondered why highly successful individuals, the likes of whom include Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs and Barack Obama choose to wear almost the same outfit every day?
When asked whether they didn’t have a taste for fashion, the common denominator between each of their responses was the notion of limiting the decisions they had to make on a daily basis. Studies have shown that we have at our disposal a limited amount of brain power everyday and every time we expend it on making a non-essential decision, we diminish our capacity to make more pivotal decisions, the ones that can make or break us.
Lots of research, old or new, seems to point to the same conclusion: when it comes to decision making in the business world, more actually means less and there is indeed a science to simplicity. The ones who are able to master it are the ones who are able to capitalize on it – both literally and figuratively.
So, narrow down those options wisely & focus on making decisions that matter.
When it comes to matters of the heart, I think most of us would agree that there are times when too many options leave us feeling scared and closed off. We now have applications like Tinder that allow us to make thousands of choices among people, by swiping left or right.
And maybe part of the reason why divorce rates have only increased over time is because people are increasingly aware that they have other options out there. Why spend time figuring things out with your significant other when it would save you a whole lot of effort and heartache just to end things now and go in search of someone who’s kinder, or smarter? Someone perfect.
More options don’t necessarily have to be a bad thing, and sure, there are happy couples who’ve met on Tinder. Choice becomes a problem when we forget, even if just for a moment, that perfection doesn’t exist. People are flawed, that’s what makes them real.
At the end of the day, we can heave a collective sigh of relief that our partners aren’t going to be flawless because, hey – let’s face it – neither are we. The best relationships are those where two people don’t just give up on each other when things get rough and start looking for the next best option. They’re the ones where two people could fight for each other forever and not get tired of it.
Here’s the thing about us: as a species and a generation, we are constantly striving to maximize our options [when we clearly need to be moving the other way]. When I moved New York to attend University last year, I remember being mesmerized by the options available to me as a consumer. However, I quickly realized the burden that comes with having too many choices.
Every little decision that needs to be made is more stressful than the one before it, because we’re trying so hard to decipher the option that will bring us the most satisfaction; and yet, what if after we’ve made our choice we realize that there was a better option all along?
Sadly, this kind of thinking perpetuates a cycle of dissatisfaction because it means that we’re constantly chasing the next best thing out there, oblivious to what’s right in front of us.
Is there a way to escape the paradox of choice?
Limit the choices you have to make on a daily basis. Among the choices you do have to make, filter out your options ruthlessly. Putting constraints on the options available to you may seem counter-intuitive, but at the same time, you are more likely to make an informed choice rather than succumbing to what’s most convenient.
Lastly, I’d like to leave you with a word that is very important to me: gratitude. Perhaps all it takes to alleviate the burden that comes with making choices is to appreciate what you already have. Once you choose the right mindset, there isn’t a choice in the world that can control you.