How To Choose in the Face of Too Many Choices

         Image   Don’t you ever wish that someone would just make the hard decisions for you? Isn’t it great when you ask someone where they want to eat and they give you an answer? Isn’t it much more fun to go to the movies when you already know what you’re going to see, rather than him and haw or argue between chick flick or dick flick?

In her TEDtalk,  How to Make Choosing EasierSheena Iyengar talks about the phenomena of how too much choice can create negative consequences and even stop us from making decisions altogether.  Another speaker, Dan Gilbert, explains in his talk, The Surprising Science of Happiness, that freedom of choice causes us to rethink or doubt our decisions, leaving us anxious and unhappy. He found that by putting limits our decision-making (giving us less choice) we sidestep these issues and we accept the facts and move on, which actually makes us more satisfied and happy with life’s outcomes.

  Beyond the implication Iyengar suggests for us in the supermarket,  I imagine the relationship between this and arranged marriages, communism and other political ramifications.  I marvel at how I might start to appreciate my limited selection on the Canadian version of  Netflix.

But I also wonder how limiting choices and decisions affects ambitions. We make choices every day that affect our future. In the Western world we are told we can be whatever we want. Everyone seems to be looking for wealth and celebrity because we are told we can have it.  But we have so many choices of paths for how to get it.

So how can you be sure that the choices you are making today are the best for tomorrow?

For me, part of making the choice to do what I do now came from eliminating options, rather than gathering them. I eliminated teacher, librarian, newspaper journalist, editor but I knew I wanted to be surrounded with writing and books. I landed on blogger/ freelance writer…eventually. And I think this is what Gilbert and Iyengar are talking about to a certain extent. When we are faced with fewer options, we are happier with the decisions we make and we are more capable of sticking with our choice. Every time I think I made the wrong choice I remember the reasons I eliminated the other options and it helps me push ahead.

If you’re unsure of your path or faced with an overwhelming number options it may help to eliminate first before you make your final choice.  And if you do decide that it was the wrong choice, years from now, hopefully you at least learn something about yourself and get closer to your true purpose and achieving your goals.

I’d love to hear your comments and ideas.  What have you eliminated or how has this method worked for you?


2 thoughts on “How To Choose in the Face of Too Many Choices

  1. Having too many choices can be daunting I find that the little choices, rather than the big choices, cause more anxiety. If I choose the wrong menu item, it won’t ruin my life, but it will ruin my meal. While the stakes are not the same, the meal is of much more immediate consequence.
    Yes, we are told we can be anything, but that isn’t as true as we would like it to be. We limit and expand our choices with every decision we make. Choices close doors, and choices open doors. Inconvenient as this is, it is the nature of our life. I can look back on my life and see how choices I have made have not worked out. I can also see how choices caused failures and that also limited my opportunities. However, I can also choose to ignore this and keep striving for something better.


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