We are constantly bombarded by choice. At the supermarket, we sometimes need to choose between 100 tea varieties!
In our daily lives, we are seeing an explosion of choice. Not only in the supermarket but also when clothes shopping, at the doctors, while eating out, while deciding what to do with your life, etc. Industry is growing and give us more options. When given a choice, it is always followed by a decision that has to be made. Some would argue that having the power to make your own choices and decision leads to their freedom and happiness in life.
We all have the choice to be who we want to be. When you wake up each day, you can decide how you spend your day. It is possible to reinvent yourself, through making the right decisions. In the modern day world, we are offered more and more choices on a daily basis. Think about it, compared to the earlier days, we now have hundreds of options for buying bread (rye, white, grain, sour dough with olives, you name it), when one hundred years ago people decided between ‘bread’ or ‘bread’. People now have more of a choice in life partners and whether or not they decide to get married and even the choice of who has been opened in most cultures. All of these choices take up brain power. How much time does one spend worrying about whether they should go to university or start working straight after school? Or whether they should eat a smoothie or granola with almond milk or oat milk for breakfast today? All I can say it that having these choices takes up a lot more time than you may realise – hours, if not days or weeks depending on the consequences of the decision.
How effective can we work when we are bombarded by so much choice in our lives? Yes, we do not have to follow a set of rules in our lives, but wouldn’t it be easier and more productive to stop wasting time and brain power on making choices?
Having so many options causes paralysis rather than liberation. It is hard to know which choice to decide upon and often we believe the wrong decision will lead to hell! We are constantly assuming that there is something better and we want the best. You stand at the fridge for a good few minutes deciding what the best food to eat is. For a few minutes you are paralysed. Not moving, not even really thinking properly. You have wasted time.
Even after you choose something to eat, you will no doubt feel regret. You built up an expectation that the food will be the best, and when it is not fully satisfying? Regret is felt due to the belief something could have possibly been better. You wish you took the bolognaise pasta sauce instead of the Italian style sauce.
When we compare the options available, we are determining a level of satisfaction we expect to receive from the decision. For example, you compare holiday destination from a few travel magazines. You see amazing pictures and you expect to have an amazingly relaxing holiday in the most picturesque place on earth. Your expectation is so high that when you go on the holiday, you are immediately un-satisfied as the location was not exactly how it was portrayed in the travel brochure. You are left disappointed and feeling sour about your holiday. People forget to live in the moment and enjoy what they have. Too often, people think about what could possibly be. We live in a vicious cycle.
You may get a better fitting pair of jeans from a selection of 100 jean varieties, but in the long run you are always left feeling worse. The higher your expectation is, the higher the disappointment. People were perfectly happy with their “jeans” before they had the option to choose “boot cut, high rise, stone washed stretch jeans”. There is a lie in “be happier with more freedom for choice”.
It sounds harsh, but the key to happiness is to have low expectations.
What do you think happens after someone feels regret from thinking they possibly bought the wrong pair of jeans, as the other ones could have been better? They blame the shop, but worst of all, they blame themselves.
Clinical depression is taking a sharp rise in our developed world, and this not new news. How cheerful and full of pleasant surprises would our daily lives be if we removed paralysis and expectation? Removing choice is the first step.
Steve Jobs wore the same T-shirt every day, without fail. He removed the choice of what to wear so he could focus his thought power on important decisions.
What can you do to reduce your daily choices? Your challenge this week is to find 3 daily choices to eliminate.
Be consistent in your daily tasks. Eat the same breakfast every day, have an exercise plan, reduce the amount of clothing to choose from in your wardrobe, stop looking for better electronics, take the first thing you like on the restaurant menu, stop wandering the supermarket for hours deciding which tea to buy. Believe me, you will have more time for the important things in your day, you will have less stress, and most importantly you will be happier.
I would love to hear what you do to reduce your daily choices. What works for you? Leave a comment or join us on social media.
This post was inspired by Barry Schwartz, the Author of The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less Check out his book via the link.
Remember: Happiness = low expectation