The Paralysis of Choice

Did you ever notice that usually our wants do not satisfy us once we are in the middle of receiving them? This is usually because we are insatiable on the one hand and unsatisfied on the other. But what is more, the more choices we have, the worse we feel, and the more anxious we feel.

Once upon a time, when we went out to buy a box of cereal, we only had a few choices. Now it seems that there are thirty different varieties of cereal, and it seems that they are coming up with more flavors on a weekly basis. Was not it easier when we could go to the store and just have one or two types of cereal?

The success of modernity is bittersweet because of the overabundance of choice. Having too many choices causes psychological distress, especially when it is combined with regret, comparison and the desire to have the best of everything.

There are steps we can take to mitigate many sources of distress. But they are not easy to follow. They require discipline, practice, and a new way of thinking.

Here are a few things you could try to avoid the stress of choice as much as possible:

1. Choose when to choose and when not to choose

Choice is essential to our overall well-being. However, too much choice has negative results for us. To manage excessive choice, we must decide which choices in our lives really matter and focus our time and energy there, letting other opportunities pass by.

2. Be a chooser not a picker

Choosers are people who are able to reflect on what makes a decision important. Perhaps none of the options should be chosen or a new option should be created. Pickers simply are passive selectors from whatever is available. Choosers take time to modify their goals, while pickers do not modify them. Choosers do not follow the herd while pickers do. Good decisions take time and attention. So, be a chooser, and you will feel less stress.

3. Satisfice more and maximize less

Maximizers suffer the most in a culture where we have too many choices. Maximizers worry most about regret, missed opportunities, and social comparisons. We have to learn to accept good enough. This will amplify our satisfaction. It is often hard to embrace good enough especially since we live in a culture of more. The trick is to embrace and appreciate satisficing.

4. Practice an attitude of gratitude

Our evaluation of our choices is substantially influenced by what we compare them with, including comparisons that exist only in our imaginations. Focus on the good aspects of an experience instead of the negative ones. By doing this, you can improve your subjective experience by consciously pursuing to be grateful about your choices.

By taking these steps, you will be destressing about choice and you will be able to enjoy the culture of plenty we live in as well as be able to step back and not be paralleled by the ubiquity of choice.