January 10, 2011

Overwhelmed by Choices?

"Although people believe they like to have lots of choices, in fact, having too many choices can be discouraging. Instead of making people feel more satisfied, a wide range of options can paralyze them. Studies show that when faced with two dozen varieties of jam in a grocery store, for example, or lots of investment options for their pension plan, people often choose arbitrarily or walk away without making any choice at all, rather than labor to make a reasoned choice." ~The Happiness Project

I suppose this isn't too shocking of an idea. I, as well, have found myself staring blankly at a wall of canned soup - wanting just a bit of chicken noodle - but being confronted with such variety - abandon the purchase altogether and wander over to the bread aisle where … well, I didn't have much success there either!

I won't comment on how we got to the "more is better" way of thinking - I doubt I could say anything very new on that topic. What I will say is that this moment in the book had me thinking about the many things I do have in my life to choose from and whether or not limiting my choices in one or more area might make a difference.

To my surprise, the first thing that popped into my mind was cutting back on the number of meetup groups I'm a part of! Upon closer examination, I noticed I had joined a ton of meetup groups solely because they sounded like something I should be doing. Yet, for all of my good intentions, I'd spent way more time deleting the invitation emails than actually attending any of the events!

So, I picked my top 3 and left all of the others, with some minor cringes of pain when saying goodbye to the karaoke, kayaking, and knitting groups (hmm .. I swear there were non-"k" groups that got booted too!). Giving up these groups did feel a bit like a loss - after all, shouldn't I want to be out in the world, doing new things, meeting new people? Yet, at the end of the day, I had only created a clutter of choices for myself and was ending up on my couch watching "The Sopranos" anyway!

After trimming down my choices, I actually feel like I have more to do! I can say yes to each meetup in my three groups consistently, because I’m not spread so thin between twenty groups. Not surprisingly, the quality of the relationships I’m forming in those groups is also improving – so, fewer events has led to more – not less – connection!

I find, when working with clients, this comes up a lot as well. Amazingly enough, I’ve gone through this process with a client who had too many dates to choose from! She felt like she was floundering in a sea of choices and was even afraid of making the wrong choice. So, she’d just gone silent – had stopped responding to the men altogether! We worked through her fears of choosing, developed criteria for when to say “yes” and when to say “no,” and winnowed down her options! She had some great dates, but, best of all, she felt better about her ability to not get stuck when too many options were available.

So, I’m curious … what could you do with a little less of?

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