We are all slaves to choice. We’re overwhelmed with it in shops, online, with reviews, with dating apps, on TV, with online music streaming – the list goes on!
Choice is an evil master who peddles the dream of unimaginable freedom. At the same time, he grinds us down, plays on our weaknesses and emotionally manipulates us. He passively aggressively screws us out of our hard-earned cash.
Choice brainwashes us into believing that he is offering self-expression, autonomy and the right to be an individual. In his cloying kindness he tricks us into believing that the more options we have the better and that if we are willing to put the time in, we can find the perfect solution to every problem and every want or desire.
Choice plays to our fears in that he always promises that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. That, if we just look a little bit harder, we’ll be able to find something better, at a keener price or with more unique features. He knows that we’re weak and easily seduced by the new and shiny. Rather than nurturing our acceptance of our lot, he offers upgrades and options that will suck us dry. He knows our insatiable quest for something meaningful to fill the bottomless pit of our consumerist vacuum lives.
Choice is like a sweetly smiling benevolent granny who gives in to a petulant child’s every whim. Who stuffs them full of candy, constantly buys them toys and feeds them as much junk food as they can devour whilst slyly squandering every last penny of their pocket money as they are distracted, gorging themselves in their gluttony.
Choice even goes as far, and how sick is this, as pretending to recognize our pain, pretending to be sympathetic. He tries to pretend he cares and nurtures us by saying “I know that this is all a bit overwhelming, here let me help you” and, in a perverse display of shallow self-serving piety, offers us “suggest” options. “You liked this so you may like this”, or “other people who chose this chose this”. “Because you listened to/watched”……..
And you know what, choice will only suggest nice safe options that won’t challenge you, stimulate you or widen your horizons. It’s in choice’s best interest to keep you in a box, to offer you unchallenging, familiar titbits because he knows that you will almost inevitably take the line of least resistance. If he offers you anything too new or different he’s scared you won’t take the bait and he won’t get paid.
F*ck you, choice.
I don’t want to waste my time with you, get stressed with you and fill your pockets without any benefit to myself. I don’t have to feel the inevitable creep of your paralyzing, overwhelming fingers every time I need to make a decision. I don’t need you to tell me what the hell I might like or not like based on you shoe horning me into a damn box and slapping a label on me. I don’t need you making me feel inadequate, playing to my fears that there may always be something better. I don’t have to always feel slightly disappointed with my decisions because there were 800 other options and the chances that one of those would have been better.
We are all only capable of making so many decisions per day. After we reach our limit we become simply “choiced out”. Why would we waste our resources being forced into making trivial choices all the time when we need to save our brain power for the important decisions each day? Steve Jobs basically wore the same clothes every day to eliminate the stress of making decisions about the small things in life so that he could concentrate on the bigger picture.
Here are some suggestions of ways to relieve the burden of decision making.
1.Do you really need to make the decision? If you think you need something or you need to replace something, think again. Have you really explored and used the old version to it’s fullest extent? What difference will getting a new one really make? Will it really improve your life and make you happier in the long term?
Shopping for new things and indulging in choosing is like riding a sugar high, it’s addictive and short-lived and is followed by a slump. The most exciting part of a new purchase is the anticipation. Most of the time, a week later, and after having paid for it, the new item is all but forgotten.
2.When making a decision always keep the end objective in mind and try not to be seduced by things that you don’t really need. Be ruthlessly focussed at all times. Ask yourself what you’re trying to achieve by making the decision and always try to focus in on the benefits that will help you achieve your objective.
3.If you are really struggling with too many choices then go back to your core values and see if you can narrow down the options by aligning the decision with what you truly believe in. You might be extremely environmentally conscious for example, which might help in your decision, or perhaps love a particular style or era.
4.Decide if it’s a small or a big decision and grant it attention accordingly. It can become so easy to spend far too long and far too many resources on relatively trivial decisions purely because there are so many options available. Similarly, don’t be rushed into making big decisions. It’s easy to become emotionally involved and to make choices in the heat of the moment. If possible step back a while, take the heat out of the situation and choose objectively.
5. Give yourself a time boundary for choosing. Before you even begin, think objectively about how much time you are reasonably willing to invest in making the decision and stick to it.
6. Accept that you are not going to get 100% perfect. Release yourself from choice’s terrible claws and accept that 70 – 80% of perfect will be fine. After all, that’s probably 70 – 80% better than you have now. We are gradually becoming conditioned to strive for perfection, it’s incredibly stressful, debilitating and bad for our self-esteem. Perfection isn’t necessary or realistic in most circumstances and it can be liberating to accept this.
7. Start by eliminating the bad options. The one’s that obviously won’t work for you leaving you with at least a reduced list of possibilities. It can be really tempting to look at every single choice, just in the fear that you might miss something. It’s such a waste of time doing this.
8. Grab a piece of paper and a pen, divide into two columns and list pros and cons for each possible option. It’s a simple but powerful exercise and often getting things out of your head and onto paper can help clarify your thinking and be far less stressful.
9. Get someone else’s opinion. Often you can become so caught up in choice paralysis that you can’t see clearly. Just verbalizing your options and chatting them through with a trusted friend will help.
10. Think into the future and imagine your life after making each of the choice options. To a certain extent, you might feel that they will have little long term impact which will help put things in perspective a bit but try to think about what your life will be like depending on each of the choices you make.
And finally, my own particular bugbear.
Don’t follow “suggestions”. They are a sanitized reality and will only lead you down an unfulfilling pathway of sameness. We need to explore, try new things and experience things we don’t already know so that we can form opinions and grow. Be your own person, make your own decisions and don’t blindly follow an algorithm that pretends to care for you but just wants your money. We are all explorers, sameness is comforting but dull and stagnant. Try to tap into how you are actually feeling and decide what you feel you would benefit from watching or listening to.
Remember you should never be a slave to choice. In fact, choice should be subservient to you, take control, trust your own judgement, let go of the fantasy of perfection and enjoy the freedom!
Andrew Hind is a Dad to three teenage girls, photographer and musician as well as a keen cyclist. He is also the blogger at www.roadcyclistsguide.com a blog about cycling, life and thriving. You can also connect at https://www.facebook.com/theroadcyclistsguide/