Choice Overload? Systems & Limits Will Set You Free.

Are choices good? Yes. But are more choices better? Not always. Too many choices leads us to decision “paralysis” and overwhelm.

We all started with some combination of rules, expectations and systems – first at home, then school, society, work, etc.

At some point, you might have chosen to test out the rules. Or maybe not. Whether you’ve been the people pleaser or the rebel, or somewhere in between – you’ve still been exercising the power of choice.

How about when choosing what to do, buy or say? And then there’s the opportunity cost of saying yes…or no for that matter. You start to judge yourself and question your decisions…what did I miss out on…should I have said yes or no or chosen another item/path, etc.

We are bombarded by choices these days. And also learning that too many choices can cause us to freeze up and not choose anything at all. This is why we find ourselves feeling stuck, frozen and overwhelmed. How do you know where to even begin when you’ve committed to so many people and so many tasks.I’m sure you realize by now that choices can be tiring!

So how do you handle so many choices?

  • Sheena Iyengar, author of The Art of Choosing says that “the key to getting the most from choice is to be choosy about choosing.”
  • I say: Avoid the bright shiny objects!!
  • It can help to script out a list or a plan to then make sure your choices align with your goals & values and greater purpose
  • Carve out time to organize your thoughts and goals. Start to create some clear systems and boundaries for your life when you’re in this quiet space. Doing so will actually FREE you by helping you easily and effortlessly navigate through choices in moments of vulnerability.
  • Some choice is of course better than no choice, but beware: more choices are not better.

Here’s a simple example of too many choices making you tired and compromising your willpower: Say you’re running to the grocery store. You’re tired anyway. You don’t have a list, but you know you need a few things, so you start walking up and down the aisles to make sure you don’t forget anything.

  • You turn right as you walk in and feel good about starting with all the healthy fruits and veggies strategically placed front right (stores have analyzed and determined that most people turn right when they walk in a store).
  • As you turn the corner, the number of decisions continues to increase and your limited supply of willpower decreases. So of course it’s not a coincidence that you end with the ice cream, candy & soda aisles, also strategically placed based upon studied human behavior. Not to mention the candy bars at the checkout stand! They know your willpower is shot by then!

Point is, if you head to the store or through your own life blindly …without thinking through or establishing rules, expectations, guidelines or at least a list, you end up:

  • Living into someone else’s vision or plan
  • Being manipulated by those who study and know your habits and behaviors when you face “choice” overload

I don’t know about you, but I prefer to live from my own purpose,  intentions and goals!

Also consider this: 

There are opportunity costs for your choices. If you choose one activity, then you’re saying no to another. You often end up in a cycle of regret or wondering if you made the right choice. We all do this and find our expectations escalating as well. Barry Schwartz explains this brilliantly in his TED talk and his book The Paradox of Choice. I’ll leave you with his words: “The secret to happiness is to lower expectations” ….and the number of choices!

So do me a favor and comment below: what system or systems do you use consistently as a framework for your choices – to keep your goals, schedules and life organized? What do you struggle with most in this area? 

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