Want to free your mind for more important choices?
Cure your choice overload one decision at a time
From the moment I wake up until I go to bed, I make many choices throughout the day. For example, let’s say I need a caffeine boost like I do most days. In this case, this daily event should be a mindless and almost automatic activity. But due to the number of choices involved in getting my caffeine fix, this simple task is far from simple. Here's what I mean...
Possible decisions that I need to make before I take my first sip:
- Should I make my drink or go out and get one?
- Where should I go? If there is more than one branch, which location?
- What drink should I order? Coffee? Tea? Other?
- Which blend or flavor?
- What size drink?
- Hot or cold?
- Add milk? OK, what kind: Whole, nonfat, 2 percent, soy, coconut, or almond milk?
- For here or to go?
- If here, where should I sit?
- Should I add whipped cream?
- Cash or credit?
Sounds familiar, right? The coffee shop is one example of how the number of choices has exploded. It seems like a large number of choices should make me happier, doesn't it? Sometimes, it does. Instead of making me feel free, I often feel overwhelmed by choice overload. Some of these decisions, like which drink to order, are not critical or urgent. But all the choices about the small things can sap my energy from the important decisions.
Possibilities create pressure
Others, like how I chose to live my life every day are significant. As a GenX woman, I have possibilities that women in prior generations did not have. To all the women who went before me to ensure those possibilities, I am forever grateful. The problem is that possibilities create the pressure of conflicting desires.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand that having choices and possibilities in all areas of my life is a privilege. But why doesn’t it feel that way?
Paradox of choice
In psychologist Barry Schwartz's TED talk, The paradox of choice, he argues that when it comes to choice, less is actually more. In Western societies, more choice means more freedom which equals more welfare, right? As a matter of fact, Schwartz believes the opposite is true. Furthermore, he calls it a peculiar problem of affluent Western societies.
More choices increase paralysis and decrease satisfaction.
Barry Schwartz argues that more choices lead to analysis paralysis. Each time I make a decision I choose to do one thing and not do something else. The more options I have, the higher my expectations rise. But if my expectations aren’t met, then my satisfaction decreases. In his talk, Barry Schwartzman joked that low expectations are the secret to happiness.
Automate some decisions to cure choice overload
One of my core desired feelings is to feel free. However, when it comes to choices, I need some restrictions. I have chosen to automate some of my decisions to save my energy for more important ones.
Many men in leadership roles wear a daily uniform. Mark Zuckerberg wears a t-shirt and jeans while Steve Jobs wore a black mock turtleneck and jeans. But expressing myself through my clothing brings me joy. So the uniform idea didn’t work for me.
But I did find one way to make one less decision every day. I have a routine of eating the same thing for breakfast almost every day of the week: steel cut oats, a glass of water with a splash of orange juice, and a mug of English Breakfast tea with milk and sugar. Over the weekend, I make up a batch of the oats and freeze the rest in a muffin tin.
Do you feel overwhelmed too?
Do you feel overwhelmed by choices or in general? You are not alone. The trick is to figure out what decisions in your life you can automate. Also, living your life in alignment with your core desired feelings can help decrease overwhelm.
Are you ready to design a life that feels good?
Sign up for unlimited, personal access to the YOUniversity Library for FREE. WHAT AWAITS YOU IN THE LIBRARY:
- Exercises for tuning into your inner desires
- Clarity on how you feel and how you want to feel.
- Visualization audios, worksheets, and videos
- An introduction to The Desire Map, a tool for holistic living, and it’s creator, Danielle LaPorte
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Also published on Medium.