The Paradox of Choice: When Too Many Choices Lead to None

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The Paradox of Choice: When Too Many Choices Lead to None

Abundance of choices leads to bad decision, anxiety, stress and depression / Photo by Getty Images


Most people think that they would be happier when they are able to pick a choice that coincides with their personal preferences. This is why most industries try to provide a diverse range of products as an attempt to satisfy most customer’s preferences, Psychology Today says.

Being faced with too many options can make one overwhelmed rather than feel that they are basking in abundance, states. In Barry Schwartz’s book titled The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less--How the Culture of Abundance Robs Us of Satisfaction, he mentions that having an abundance of choices pressures a person to spend energy and time on every selection. As a result, rather than feeling free, a person feels more restricted.

Schwartz cautions, “Clinging tenaciously to all the choices available to us contributes to bad decisions, to anxiety, stress, and dissatisfaction--even clinical depression.”

Eva Krockow, a German psychologist who lives in the UK, agrees with this sentiment and adds that it leads to decision paralysis, disappointment, and self-blame. In her article Too Much Choice, she explains that when people have overflowing options, they are more likely to feel discontented with their final choice rather than if they had fewer selections to choose from.

Types of Decision-makers

According to Schwartz, a professor of social theory and social action, there are two types of decision-makers.


These are individuals who want to be sure that they have chosen the best choice. They need to be certain that every purchase or decision they have selected is the finest one ever.


In contrast, satisficers will choose a choice that they consider to be good and are not concerned about whether a better option out there exists.

Furthermore, he says that the secret to feeling more satisfaction and abundance is to be a satisficer because no one can possibly identify which option is the absolute best. The objective of maximizing, he explains, can make people feel distressed which is worsened by a world that offers them countless choices that include the trivial and not so trivial.

He clarifies that being a satisficer does not imply that a person has no standards. It just means that they keep looking for an item, for instance, that fits their expectations and when they find the item that fits their standards, they stop looking. This does not show that the individual is settling for less, rather that they are “content with the merely excellent as opposed to the absolute best.”

Strategies for Overcoming Choice-overload

It is stated that to be able to develop the habit of making better decisions, one must constantly practice it and nurture it. The three most important strategies to feel relieved from the abundance of choice are;

Choose when to decide

Schwartz says that to be able to deal with the bombardment of choices, people should determine which choices in their life are important for them and then direct all their time energy on those choices.

To apply this, they may re-examine some of the minor and major decisions they have chosen. For example, they can review where they decided to spend their vacation or their food choice at a restaurant. Next, they are advised to make a detailed record of the research, the duration and the worry they felt as they came up with that choice. After that, they must think about how they felt in the process of coming up with that decision. Lastly, they must also consider the impact that process had on their final decision.


A constant practice and nurturing it can lead to making a better decisions / Photo by Rancz Andrei via 123RF


Being grateful

He also advises that individuals must feel grateful for the positive aspects of their decision instead of being disappointed by its negative attributes. When they do this, it will greatly enhance how they feel about the experience.

To do this, he also suggests that they have a notepad which is always placed next to their bed. Each time they wake up or before going to sleep, they should write down the five things within that day that they feel thankful for.

He says that they may initially feel self-conscious and silly while doing this, but the more they keep doing it, the easier it is to list down the things that make them feel grateful. Gradually, it will condition them to be thankful for their lives as it is instead of searching for new and improved products to make their life feel better.

Lessening Social Comparison

When people engage in social comparison, this causes them to resort to maximizing. Although there are times when a person could not avoid social comparison, they must not use it as a measurement of their self-esteem. Instead, they should just pay attention to what matters to them. These are the things that bring them true happiness and give them a sense of purpose. If they concentrate on these, they will focus less on trying to maximize and impress others.



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