Too Many Choices
Wednesday, March 01, 2017
In his book The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, Barry Schwartz probes why being able to choose is healthy, but having too much choice is debilitating. For example, research shows that offering consumers too many flavors of jam (two dozen instead of a half dozen) actually reduces sales. Beyond a certain point, too many options feel paralyzing: more choices means less contentment.
Schwartz describes entering a Gap store and asking for a new pair of blue jeans. The clerk asks if Schwartz wants slim fit, easy fit or relaxed fit; regular or faded; stone-washed or acid-washed; button fly or regular fly. He spends longer in the store than he planned and experiences "no small amount of self-doubt, anxiety and dread." At a local supermarket he finds 85 varieties of crackers, 285 types of cookies, 230 different soups, 120 pasta sauces, and 175 kinds of salad dressing.
With so many options available to us, how do we combat the overwhelming sense of having too much choice? Schwartz offers these suggestions:
Enjoy an attitude of gratitude. "With practice," Schwartz says, "we can learn to reflect on how much better things are than they might be." When you feel overwhelmed by multiple choices, first thank God for His blessings.
"God is not the author of confusion but of peace." ~ 1 Corinthians 14:33
Value constraint and the power of non-reversible decisions. This applies particularly to life's most important decisions. Getting married and raising a family all involve making crucial choices. No matter what you chose, you're bound to experience doubts later in life. You may meet someone younger, funnier, or more caring than your spouse, or wonder what things you could do if you had more free time. But when it comes to your kids or your marriage, this is not about comparison-shopping; instead, decide right now not to allow yourself to go down that path. Choose to focus your energy into making your home life the best it can be.
Recognize you have more important things to do than ponder alternatives. "There are a lot of people walking around, really dissatisfied with their lives, unable to put their fingers on what it is that's so troublesome." Your time is far too valuable to waste it by wondering about what "could have been."
We need to make sure our actions are consistent with our will, our beliefs, and what we want for our life. With this gift of choice comes the responsibility to choose wisely.