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The Conundrum of Choice.
By Andrew Gregory
We live in a society where we expect to have choices in every area of our lives.
And not only that, we are bombarded with different options to everything, everywhere.
From adverts on television, magazines, social media, websites, billboards, sides of buses and radio stations to product placements in our movies, television shows and games.
But what would it be like with less choice?
I mean can you imagine walking into a clothes shop and only seeing one unisex outfit in white and that was all there was?
You would probably feel indignant as a consumer with the lack of options available to you.
Inevitably you would still have a choice but a very simple one, buy it or leave it.
However, is having too much choice good for our confidence?
I’m going to ask you to imagine once more, but this time you are entering an ice cream parlour for the very first time, never having had ice cream before in your life.
The shop is full of other experienced ice cream eaters but here you are having never tasted it, let alone ordered an ice cream before.
Imagine how daunting it would be to get to the front of the queue and finding 30 different flavours to choose from.
Not only that there are 20 toppings, 5 types of cones or tubs and 7 sauces that you can choose as well.
You may start to feel overwhelmed, panicked and self-conscious when you are asked: “What can I get you?”
Hopefully, in this simple example, you can see that you can put yourself under some serious pressure in having to make a choice.
Now, what if that was something bigger?
The house you want to buy, the career change you want to make or taking that loan for home improvements.
If it is not something you have done before this can be massively overwhelming anyway but throw in the number of choices you would have, it can be crippling.
Here is where we hit the conundrum of choice.
We all want to have options but when we have too many it can actually be detrimental, impacting on our wellbeing and confidence.
So how do we go about combating that overwhelm and in turn make the decision making process a lot easier?
Well, one option would be to ask society to change its ways and simply cut back on providing so many options…
Yeah, I didn’t think so either.
So let’s start closer to home and consider what we as individuals can do.
First, when you are faced with a choice, pay attention to your thoughts and feelings.
Your intuition can offer some serious insight into what we believe is the right option.
If you feel like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders when hearing an option, likelihood is that it is a good fit for you.
However, if the very next option sends your head into a spin and a churning feeling in your stomach, it could be that it is not a right fit at all.
That said, your intuition should only be a guide.
We have to consider the engrained flight or fight reaction to something taking us out of our comfort zone.
Our natural instinct is based on these principals and it is our brain trying to protect us from danger i.e. we either fight or fly.
If it is a big decision this reaction is obviously going to be stronger but it is still important to pay attention to our thoughts and feelings as a starting point.
Once you have got your head around how you are initially reacting its time to consider your values and beliefs in making the right choice.
If we want to be confident in cutting through all the choices and making a decision we must reflect on what we value.
This can allow us to form crystal clear criteria and help reduce the number of choices we have.
Let’s go back to the “big decisions” and consider buying a house.
If we value open space, fresh air, less traffic, community feel, we are less likely to find these in a big built up city. So looking at houses in that area you are not going to be able to find satisfaction in any home you view.
However, if we believe the hustle and bustle amenities and activities are important then possibly being out in the middle of nowhere is not going to work for you either.
As such you would want to look in the best location that provides you with the best of both worlds to satisfy your values and beliefs.
You can see how doing this can reduce the number of options we have and reduce the feeling of overwhelm.
Being able to do this takes practice however it can boost your confidence in the decision you make, knowing it is in alignment with what you truly value and believe.
Finally, all you have to do is make a decision.
Sounds obvious, however, we can sometimes get lost in our thoughts of considering every eventuality that we can panic ourselves in to never making a decision.
Once we have considered our thoughts, feelings, values and beliefs it’s time to take mindful action that coincides will all this.
Taking the above example of buying a new home, you may have found the perfect house for you but through your considerations and going back and forth whether it is right for you, someone else has come in and had an offer accepted.
Meaning you miss out on your dream home and put yourself back into square one.
So the next time you face a decision, big or small, and you are overwhelmed with choice, just remember to acknowledge your thoughts and feelings, revert to your values and beliefs before taking mindful action in making that decision.
Know that by following this you will become more confident in making decisions and tackling the conundrum of choice.