The Paradox of Choice

Failure as badge of honour

Accepting the Covid-19 world

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There is nothing more exciting than coming to a restaurant or eatery to see that they only have three dishes available to order. Conversely, there was nothing more unappealing than joining mum to the mall to shop when I was younger given that it seemed like there was a limitless number of things she could try and potentially by.

The Paradox of Choice states that too much choice limits our freedom. As counter-intuitive as it may sound on first glance, it holds up to scrutiny. When a decision is needed where there are a number of different alternatives, there is a cost associated in making the choice. This cost is the evaluation and re-evaluation of alternatives amongst each other. When the decision has high stakes such as buying a house, then perhaps people are willing to tolerate the process. But when the choice is, for all intents and purposes, trivial like choosing what clothes to wear for dinner, or deciding what to cook for dinner for the week, the cost adds up.

The alternative is where there are very few alternatives to choose from. In this case, there is cost associated with making the decision is much smaller. Hence why I love going to eateries with small menu’s. There is little hullabaloo with regards to what to eat, and my energy is focussed on whoever I am with at the time.

I don’t mean to say that I would like to live a life without choice, but it is useful to have an awareness of this psychological phenomenon. Cutting down the amount of decisions you make in a day frees up your mental energy and attention for whatever matters in your life. For me, this involved doing a deep spring clean of my wardrobe and my possessions in general. If I didn’t think I’d use it within the next month, it would be recycled or donated. I probably cut my total possession by more than half, and am living a lot lighter now.

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