What is the mantra of modern Western society? Freedom of choice. Whether it is travel, educational options for our children, or even coming up with a new interior design scheme, we want as many choices as we can get. But is that always good? Is it possible to have too many choices?
There are some people whose lives appear terribly chaotic from the minute they get up in the morning to the time they go to bed at night. Every task, no matter how nominal, seems like wading through dozens of slot reviews on a casino affiliate site. There are so many choices that it is impossible to pick one.
Perhaps you have experienced this very thing. Maybe you can never seem to make a decision about which jeans to buy. Perhaps going to the drive-through is too intimidating for you. You stay away from video streaming services because you cannot make sense of the tens of thousands of titles at your disposal.
Paralysed by Your Choices
Psychology Today contributor Eva M. Krockow, Ph.D. raised this very issue in an excellent 2018 piece. In that piece, she discussed something known as ‘decision paralysis‘. Decision paralysis is essentially the inability to make a choice because there are too many to deal with. She uses the example of trying to buy coffee at a modern coffee shop.
First, you have to decide what type of bean you prefer. Then it is on to the different roasts. Narrow down those choices and you are faced with deciding on your preferred drink. They have straight coffee, espresso, cappuccino, and dozens of other choices. From there you move on to flavourings and sweeteners. The list goes on and on.
It could be a stretch, but Krockow settled on 80,000 different drink combinations when considering all the options at the coffee shop. Then she rightly posed the following question: how do you ever pick a favourite drink?
Her point is well taken. With so many options, it is virtually impossible to try all of them. There may be one specific combination that would knock your socks off, yet you never get to it because your mind is too preoccupied with so many other choices. It is easy under such circumstances to be paralysed by your choices.
Choices for Travel
Finding yourself paralysed by so many coffee choices can be both annoying and disappointing. It is not likely to be critical or life-altering. Yet there are other times when decision paralysis can become a major deal. Take travelling, for example.
You decide you want to visit a place you’ve never been before. You immediately hop online and start looking at travel blogs. That’s great. You find one detailing the blogger’s jaunt through the Caribbean. Suddenly you are excited to see St. Lucia, Jamaica, at al. Time to take a break and go refill your wine glass.
When you come back, you find some other posts discussing the loveliest spots in Eastern Europe. They look inviting, too. Then you discover Asia, Africa, and Oceania. Before you’ve finished your Pinot Noir, your mind is swimming in possibilities.
Why is this any worse than struggling with the menu at the coffee shop? Because you are going to spend thousands of dollars on travel. Your trip to wherever is going to be a lot more expensive than that macchiato you paid $5.99 for.
Missing the Details
You could get so overwhelmed by all of the travel choices that you start missing the details. It happens all the time. You finally settle on a destination you know very little about. In your excitement, you fail to dig into it enough to learn that the country is currently experiencing political unrest. You book your trip without knowing there are travel advisories in place.
One of your friends might be so giddy about cruising that she books her next trip without understanding the potential problems caused by the ongoing coronavirus crisis. She has so many options for the cruise she does not consider that she will have to be screened prior to boarding the ship. She has no idea that if her temperature is too high, she will be denied. Goodbye cruise and that non-refundable deposit
Simplicity Is Sometimes Better
Coffee shops and travel websites are two extremes illustrating the potential for decision paralysis. Yet a plethora of options can be found in just about every aspect of modern life. All the options are not necessarily a bad thing, though simplicity is sometimes better.
There are those among us who have decided to adopt a minimalist lifestyle. In many cases, minimalists do not want to be tied down to stuff. They do not see the value in material possessions. Such thinking is absolutely valid. But have you ever stopped to consider that minimalists do not have to face so many choices? It is one of the hidden benefits of that particular lifestyle.
When you make the effort to keep your life simple, your choices are organically diminished. Simplicity is incompatible with voluminous choices. In fact, too many choices only complicate matters. And complications are just what minimalists are purposely trying to avoid.
Self-Limit Your Choices
So what’s the solution? If it’s possible to have too many choices, how does one avoid decision paralysis? By self-limiting your choices. The best thing about having too many choices is that you also have the choice to not entertain them all.
At the coffee shop, you can choose to stick with a drink you’ve already had and know you enjoy. As they say, there’s no need to fix what’s not broken. If you are a regular traveller, you can run through your list of unseen destinations in alphabetical order.
Decision paralysis is partly caused by having too many choices to deal with. But it is also partly caused by you and I willingly entertaining all of those choices. We don’t have to go that route. We can make the conscious decision to limit our choices. Such a decision avoids paralysis by keeping things simple.
Is it possible to have too many choices? Your local coffee shop answers that question. Understanding what to do about it is the key to not letting yourself be paralysed to the point of indecision.