I always advocate the importance of making your own choices. You’re different than the people around you, and you need to find a path that’s right for you.
And yet, I recently came to think about the fact that sometimes, having a choice is not the best thing.
Have you ever been in a happy relationship, yet kept wondering if there was someone else out there for you? Have you ever chosen a career path you were passionate about, yet kept envying other people’s careers? Or have you ever wondered whether you’re stupid not to get that nose job, even though you don’t really want it?
If you’ve answered yes to either of those questions, you and I are in the same boat. Truth be told, all of these have crossed my mind so many times. And millions of other similar thoughts right with them.
This TED talk about the paradox of choice actually inspired this article. It opened my eyes to the reason behind so many internal struggles I was having. And it finally made me
Why choice can represent constraint, not freedom
Some situations would be easier if you didn’t have a choice.
That nose job topic, for example. My Jewish nose is something that I was often teased about when I was a child. And as a child, I always dreamed about changing it one day. But once I reached an age where this became a possibility, I had already stopped obsessing about it so much. I knew quite well that neither my personality, my relationships, nor my career would improve in any way if my nose was smaller.
And yet, I keep seeing other people (with smaller noses than me) getting theirs done. And it makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong. Shouldn’t I be okay with my nose? Should I just take the plunge and get it done, even if it isn’t worth the risk for me?
In the end, some situations would be easier if we didn’t have a choice. It would enable us to accept things, instead of constantly evaluating our decisions.
In her TED talk, Sheena Iyendar points out that having to make a choice can make us feel trapped, guilty, and wondering what might have been. In these cases, choices impose constraint instead if liberation.
So why not do it on purpose once in a while? Sometimes, you can just follow your gut feeling and choose to not consider an option.
How to choose between work and leisure
Who hasn’t read numerous blog posts and motivational speeches telling us that we can achieve anything if we just work hard enough?
Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that. But working hard is not exactly very specific. What does it actually mean? Should we work every minute of every hour of every day? Or should we strive to find a healthy balance that takes into account all the other important aspects of our lives?
In our society, we constantly have access to everything. The limit between work and leisure gets more and more blurry. Barry Schwartz talks about it in his TED talk The paradox of choice (which I highly recommend!).
For me, this limit sometimes completely disappears and results in me working in front of a Netflix show on a Sunday night. But is that work? Is that leisure? Or is that just an unhealthy mixture that makes me produce bad quality work while not taking advantage of my free time?
I personally believe that the latter is true. And the choice to work or not to work just shouldn’t be as hard.
It makes no sense to constantly work because there’s so much more to life than our job. According to Robert Waldinger, good relationships are actually the most important ingredient of happiness!
You need to set a time for work and a time for all the other aspects of your life. It’s not easy, but it’s better to predetermine specific time slots rather than to constantly think « shouldn’t I be working right now? ».
How to avoid making disappointing choices
When you get to choose between option A and option B, it’s relatively easy to determine which one you want. But imagine you get one hundred different options to choose from. How do you figure out which one is the right one for you? And more importantly, how do you do so without spending years of your life just to make this one choice?
The problem is, we don’t just get one hundred different choices. When you’re choosing your career, there’s an unlimited number of choices to what you could do with your life! And the same goes for so many other aspects of your life.
One of my best friends found her soulmate when she was 17. And for years, she always told me how happy she was with her relationship, and yet kept wondering whether there was someone better out there for her.
And really, how can you blame her? When the first choice you make ends up being a good one, you don’t even have anything to compare it to. All you do is look at what other people have. And since the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, you can’t help but notice all the negative parts of your situation.
Ruth Chang describes the difference between hard choices and easy choices quite well. In easy choices, option A is better than option B. In hard choices, option A is better in some ways, yet option B is better in other ways.
You have to remember that nothing is only positive – and nothing is purely bad. Every situation, every decision in life has upsides and downsides. Just like there is a silver lining to every bad thing that happens, every good thing has a
As long as we’re searching for the perfect solution, we won’t ever be happy. All it will do is make us question every decision we make because we’ll always end up unsatisfied with the results.
According to Ruth Chang, it’s also a mistake to choose one thing over the other just because one option seems safer. The fear of the unknown is not a good indicator of what would be best for us.
So instead, we should focus on the positive. Being grateful for the good things we have is the first and most important step to achieving happiness. And that includes accepting that no matter what choice we make, it can never be perfect.
So now tell me, what is your experience with choices? Do you believe that it’s best to always have a choice, or do you tend to feel overwhelmed by too many options? Please let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to share this article if you liked it!