Strolling through the aisles of the supermarket, I like to have a large choice of jams or teas. New and exotic flavors tingle my curiosity in experiencing something new on my bread in the morning. I choose with pleasure.
However, it is with much less pleasure, let alone curiosity, that I choose my laundry detergent from the large offer on the shelves. I usually go by price and ecology label.
The same goes for restaurants: I enjoy choosing from a smartly chosen list of courses but I hate going through a 20 page menu in a Chinese restaurant where you order a number instead of the name of the plate.
And when my company changed from a default (e.g. safe) pension investment plan to one where I could actually choose where to invest my money (and what level of risk to take), my initial choice was to stay with the default for lack of knowledge of the other options and fear of making a mistake or taking a risk and ‘wasting’ the money.
So when is it good to have a choice? And how many alternatives are healthy for the human mind to tackle?
If one has a choice of 20 jams, does one buy more than one? If yes, is it out of (positive?) frustration?
The problem surely has to do with deciding what your preferences are. If out of the 20 jams you are unable to say which ONE you like best (because there are at least 2 or 3 you like a lot), frustration is around the corner.
Now, I agree that choosing a jam, even out of a selection of 20 on display, is not that hard and it doesn’t affect your wallet all that much either. However, when I suddenly had to choose my pension investment plan, the possibilities left me flummoxed.
Don’t get me wrong: I thought it was a good idea to get a choice. I am pro choice. To me it means (although it doesn’t necessarily equal) more freedom. But one is only able to make an intelligent choice if one has all the necessary information and views on possible effects of the different outcomes in order to be able to analyse it properly.
Sometimes however, thinking too much about possible outcomes or having too much information can be harming in the sense that it overloads your brain and prevents it from making a clear-headed decision. Sometimes it is good to get other people’s opinions. Sometimes it is good to just follow your gut feeling.
“Learning to choose is hard. Learning to choose well is harder. And learning to choose well in a world of unlimited possibilities is harder still, perhaps too hard.” ― Barry Schwartz
Watch his Ted talk on the Paradox of choice.
Make Your Choice
Sometimes you wait for destiny’s touch
to help pick your choices, decisions and such
change all your maybe’s into yes’s or no’s
direct your own path that you should have chose
But waiting allows your goals to be tweaked
by weakened decisions preferred by the meek
your roads will be handpicked by unknown fate
and then comes regret, and by then it’s too late
Your decisions and choices are easy to make
but your excuses are many, and reasons all fake
step up and stand tall, announce your decision
don’t ever look back with mirrored revision.
Poem by Michael Charles Messineo
Read more on this topic:
Status anxiety – Alain de Botton