Too many choices. Is there such a thing?
The short answer is yes, and how we deal with it matters. A lot.
I may not address the issue of too many choices as eloquently as Seth Godin recently did. As one of my favorite bloggers, he has a gift for using very few words to boil things down to their essence. However, I can’t resist riffing off his post. Making choices is one of my fundamental beliefs to living a good life. With his post, Seth brought up a great point of how to deal with the dilemma of too many choices.
Why do I call it a dilemma? Because too many choices can overwhelm us. It can lead to anxiety and paralysis leading to no choices being made, in which case we become stuck. On the other hand, with too many options, we can make poor choices that distract us, cause us to lose focus, put us on paths that are hard to get off of without considerable effort if we don’t choose the steering current that guides our life.
Life wasn’t always this way. Sure, there were always choices to be made, but choices were usually limited based on where we lived, the beliefs and values of our community, our vocation, our local environment. In some cases, the choices were made for us.
Today, information is abundant, connections limitless, consumption effortless. in this age of information, the number of choices is endless. As Seth so astutely points out:
We are leaving the age of information and entering the age of choice.
Not just choosing what we’ll consume, but who we will become. Who will we connect with, lead, trust, honor, dignify, isolate or believe?
And how will we choose to walk through the world and what will we leave behind…
Choice, therefore, is more important than ever to determine the shape of our life and who we will become, who we want to be. By making that choice, we make a conscious decision on which things not to do. As A. D. Sertilanges wrote in The Intellectual Life, “by choosing one road, I am turning my back on a thousand others.” As he would go on to write, it allows us to focus our mind, using it “as a lens concentrating its power.”
The key choice – who do we want to become? That road we choose is the choice that guides all others. It dictates who we choose to surround ourselves with. It guides what we choose to spend our time on. It determines what we choose not to do, what we leave behind.
By choosing who we want to be, who we will become, we enjoy the benefit of narrowing down the choices we need to make in life. In essence, we solve the dilemma of too many choices.
So what choice should you make? I can’t answer that question for you because the answer is different for each of us. It is up to us, through our freedom of will, to explore and study our self, our mind, and to make that choice. While I don’t know what you will find and what the proper answer is for you, I do know one thing for certain. Take your time and choose wisely. Your life depends on it.