Day 17: Lessons I learned from watching Barry Schwartz’s Ted talk ” The Paradox of choice”

For day 17 of my 365 Days of Ted journey I decided to watch a presentation by Barry Schwartz called “The Pardox of Choice.” This post is for anyone who has ever felt overwhelmed with all the choices in your life – you are not alone and through his Ted talk Barry will explain why you are feeling the way you do.

Day 17 choices choices choices Choice Paralysis

The problem with too many choices is that for fear of making the wrong choice we end up in this state of choice paralysis unable to make a decision, although you could argue that by not actively making a choice you are still making a decision by default. Perhaps you are planning to go away for the Summer holidays. You have booked your plane ticket and are now looking to get your accommodation sorted. You are heading to a tourist hot spot so you literally have hundreds of hotels to choose from which at first seems like a buffet delight of options yet you are unable to make a choice for fear of  making the wrong one so you postpone the decision until tomorrow, then the day after that so for before you know it’s a week before your plane leaves and you still haven’t booked any accommodation yet.  Finally you end up booking one of the few remaining vacant hotels and when you actually arrive at your holiday destination  you end up feeling pangs of regret every time you walk past another hotel!

I struggle with paralysis choice all the time, its one of the reason I hate shopping. I could be standing in front of 30 printers at a department store and  cannot pick a single printer for fear of regretting my decision. Should I buy a multifunction? Should I buy an A3 printer? Should I buy individual cartridges? Should I buy dual cartridges? Im getting a migraine just thinking about it! I often wonder what an impact on sales it would make if retailers just reduced the different varieties of what is essentially the same product.

Too many choices.. Too many expectations

If we are not stuck in choice in paralysis we are suffering from choice remorse! An interesting point Barry raised that really resonated with me is that if we have too many choices we tend to regret the decision that we have made and assume that alternative choices would have been a better option. Increased choices also means that our expectations rise significantly. Barry shares a story about buying denim jeans. Once upon a time there was really only one type of jeans that you could buy. They may not have been comfortable when you first wore them but after a few washes they become more worn in and did the trick.  Now Barry says when he walks into a store to buy jeans the sales person asks him “Do you want slim fit, easy fit, relaxed fit? You want button fly or zipper fly? You want stonewashed or acid-washed? Do you want them distressed? You want boot cut, you want tapered, blah blah blah …”

All these choices Barry says made him disappointed with his eventual purchase. Why? Well the jeans may have been good, they could have even been great, but they were not perfect. When we are presented with a single choice our expectations are much lower than when we are presented with 100 choices and if we are not satisfied with our 1 in 100 choice we blame ourselves for being bad at making decisions.

Action step

Today’s action step is to learn to trust my first gut instinct before all the over thinking comes into play. I am going to try it with all the every day decisions that I am faced with from what to have for lunch, where to have dinner which movie to watch at the cinema and all the other choices I come across.  It might not be easy – I have a reluctant hobby of over thinking things but Im up for the challenge .  Wish me luck and let me know if you have ever been overwhelmed with choices as well in the comments below!