The Choice Paradox

by

Sometimes we wish the supermarket only had 2 cereals for sale: Cocoa Puffs and maybe a high fiber tree bark wrapped in sun dried kale option. That way, our decision is simple. Sugary or healthy? Chances are, your supermarket has 20-30 cereals which might leave you wondering the following:

A) How the hell are all these people in business, and
B) How is it that you’re supposed to choose one of these things?

Infinite Choice

You’d think that the power of choice would leave us in infinite bliss, skipping through a field of daises, effortlessly choosing that which is best for us in our lives. After all, if we are offered every option, we should be able to handle that in a jiffy, right? Nope.

Choice paralyzes us. When there are umpteen things fighting for our attention we have no idea how or where to start, so we don’t. Too many choices are too many chances to choose the wrong thing, too many things we might regret. This happens at the supermarket, at work, or with our to-do list.

24 vs. 6

A study was done by Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper where on one side of the supermarket they put a display of 24 different types of jams and at another spot in the store, they put a display of only 6 types of jams. Those people who approached the 6-jam setup were TEN times more likely to purchase a jar than the 24-jam setup.

How to defeat choice paralysis at work/with your goals? One way is to take out a blank piece of paper at the start of your day and write down a plan for the day. What do you want to get done? What things can you not afford to put off? What accomplishments will make you sleep well that night?

If you try to just go with it as the day comes, new emails and other people’s requests will dominate your day. You will have too many choices to choose from.

If we don’t know what we want to get done, how can we be upset at not completing it?