Growing up, I always believed that having the option to make a choice was a good thing – it was a sign that you were empowered, had agency to make decisions, etc. However, over time, having choices may not always be a good thing – sometimes it just leads to paralysis. Here are some examples:
I have probably spent more time scrolling through Prime Video, Netflix and Hotstar, than actually watching anything on them. I’m exaggerating, of course, but not by much.
I keep ordering books at a much faster clip than I actually read them. But how can I not – for this next book will change my thinking, open my eyes, reveal life’s secrets to me! And before it arrives at my doorstep, I’ve read about this other great, (even more) lifechanging book. Ordered.
And some big examples:
I have a project list and to do list that is never ending. Luckily, in most cases, I have the ability to make a choice about which one I should pursue. But just as I decide, I have an intense sense of FOMO. What if I miss out on the goodness that will come from the other choice!
I know someone who did not go on a vacation once, because they could not decide on the destination. Leaves and budgets were in place but they just didn’t travel, because they couldn’t make up their mind!
Are we doomed to live with this choice conundrum? Now, I think there are two ways to do this. I’m not an expert or a psychologist but I am trying these to see if they work.
1. Simply restrict the number of choices one needs to make. For any decision which is not truly important, just don’t make a choice. Go with the flow!
2. Set up a system and let that system make the choice for you. Famously, Mark Zuckerberg wears the same clothes every single day, so that he reduces the number of decisions he needs to make.
By doing these, we could possible eliminate the cognitive load of making too many choices. So when a really important choice needs to be made, you have all your faculties at your disposal. As with many things in life, maybe the solution to the Choice Conundrum lies in doing less, than in doing more.