Have a Choice to Make? Read This. Exploring the Difficulty of Having Too Many Choices.
Posted on December 22, 2014
Have you ever selected a choice, out of a boatload of other, similarly well-qualified choices, and thought to yourself, “Did I make the right one?” Uh huh. I’ve been there. On many occasions, my rapacious self has entered a restaurant wherein I was forced to make a decision. Do I get the sirloin or the chicken francaise? The salmon or the pasta? An appetizer? What kind of wine? Red? White? The items on any given menu blur into one form of head-scratching perplexity. When my order is delivered, I gaze at my neighbor’s dish in admiration and, exhaling an exasperated and elongated sigh, I mutter the following: I wish I ordered that instead.
That’s the beauty of living in the free world, isn’t it? It’s the freedom of choice. At any given time and at any given place, we have a multitude of options to sift through and choose from. Our actions are not constrained by someone on the outside telling us what to do, or what to say, or what to wear. We have choices … and a lot of them. In fact, due to the accessibility of everything in this modern world, our options have increased even more. Fifty years ago, cream cheese was, well, simply cream cheese. Now, at least ten varieties are stocked on the shelves of the supermarket: plain, strawberry, garden vegetable, chive and onion, blueberry, honey pecan, smoked salmon, caramel. From choosing your meal at a restaurant, to choosing a car, to choosing your dream home, to choosing a baby name, to choosing a flavor of cream cheese spread, our options appear endless. And with more to choose from, it is inherently implied that our decisions are easier made, right? Well, wrong. The decision actually becomes more difficult and, oftentimes, leaves you less than satisfied as a result.
Perhaps it is because with more choices comes more opportunities for regret, – more “I should have done this” or “I should have done that.” After a decision is made, we dwell on the possibility that we made the wrong one; and with more options on the table, there are more chances for missed opportunities. Sure, decisions would be easier if we had one option to choose from: if, for example, plain cream cheese was the only choice we had. However, in utilizing this example, there are almost ten chances that you will not be satisfied with your selection.
Let’s examine our typical decision-making process. When we select a choice, we do so by considering a slew of elements that assist us in reaching that conclusion. For instance, let’s say I wish to relocate out of New Jersey to another state. In making this decision, I may conduct a side-by-side comparison of my options, considering location, cost of living and weather conditions. Do I select New York? California? Florida? Virginia? There are a lot of choices, but the fact that I prefer warm weather over cold may steer me towards Florida – which represents one option out of the forty-nine others. This decision, this choice, was decided by examining the elements available to me at the time I made it. However, when I am in Florida, let’s say I find the August heat to be unbearable and, as a result, I scorn myself for choosing that state and, just like the restaurant example, I mutter, “I knew I should have chosen Virginia instead.” The point is, after a choice is made, it is inevitable that circumstances may change. Facts may change. Things may not be laid out the same now as they were then when we made the choice. In hindsight, we mistake these changes in circumstance and fact to mean that we erred in our choices. We second guess ourselves, we get down on ourselves, instead of remembering what made us choose that route in the first place. This, in essence, is the difficulty in having too many choices. Not to mention, the process of sifting through and deciding on one is burdensome, time consuming and stressful.
Okay, so what is the bottom line?
Remember, a choice that is made will always be wrong for some reason, but it will always be right for some reason as well. After making a choice, reflect on the elements that helped you reach that decision, not on how things are laid out after the fact. Whether you are choosing between regular cream cheese and honey pecan cream cheese or between a career in law or medicine, understand that there is no right or wrong choice. Trust your decision-making skills. Follow your gut. Don’t second guess yourself. And if it helps, set your expectations low. That way, you will never be disappointed.
Have you ever experienced an inner battle when deciding between a multitude of choices? If so, how did you handle it? What is the biggest choice that you ever had to make?