By accident I did my bit for fast fashion. Sick of scrolling through hundreds of dresses, I decided I didn’t need another highstreet delivery to squish my wardrobe. One decision out the way in a day pleading for analysis. Choice overload affects our relationships, mental health, stress and overall contentment.
What is choice overload and why is it a problem?
Choice overload results from struggling to make decisions when facing many similar options. Perhaps at a restaurant, supermarket, when watching TV and when online dating. Technology has gluttonised society and falsely idolised the construct of fussy. More options = better outlook, selective tailoring. In a world of millennials dreaming for Instagram perfection, doesn’t choice deliver exactly what we need to craft ideals? Not exactly…
According to Thrive Global, numerous choice “often leads to greater fear of making the wrong decision.” The site explains how choosing from an overwhelming selection can impact productivity and wellbeing. Weighing up options leads to overthinking which lowers “performance on mentally demanding tasks”. Equally, overanalysing decreases “working memory” – replacing productivity with worry and “repetitive thoughts.”
Not only does choice overload add pressure and consume energy, it’s the result of instant gratification. Explained by motivational speaker Simon Sinek, countless millennials were fed the notion of having whatever they wanted – everyone’s a winner regardless of not winning. This boomed a desire for immediate reward which coincides with technology’s ability to muster cravings with speed. Concluding to a generation expecting the world without putting in effort, and an ever-growing society striving for unrealistic expectation.
Choice overload ruining relationships
“People expect too much in one person.” A conversation I had yesterday discussed how pickiness is stopping people from falling in love. It seems the criteria for what we want in a partner has risen. Beyond ‘funny’, ‘ambitious’, ‘kind’ and ‘intelligent’, some seek a partner who plays the complete role of confidante, lover and best friend. My article How to Find Love in the City, shared how the idea of endless possibility makes us judge too harshly. Waiting for perfection usually ends in permanent waiting.
We accept differences in friendships but want the complete package in a partner. Online dating fuels this phenomenon. It takes around 15 – 30 minutes of preferencing ethnicity, financial status, hobbies and beliefs before finding matches. While online dating has bloomed long-lasting relationships, how do we really know what we want? Sometimes the person with the hair colour you dislike and the humour you don’t understand, makes for the greatest love to experience life with. Because chemistry can override idealistic views.
Some of our wishes stem from what we see on social media. A place where anything short of living your best doesn’t qualify. I’m all for upgrading and not accepting unhappiness – also aware that there’s limits to perfection. At some point, you have to find contentment and work on the situation you have, rather than crave the picture-perfect images painted on Insta.
How to deal with choice overload
Me, my sister and my mum all have our theories. I – after deep analysis, end up sticking to what I know, my sister will easily give up and walk away with nothing while my mother buys it all. One request to buy berries led to every kind both fresh and frozen. The article linked earlier from Thrive Global suggests a number of helpful tips to improve decision making.
This includes putting a limit on information you consume and learning to differentiate between small and large decisions. Coachingpositiveperformance.com advises to practice the 80/20 principle. For the 80% of decisions not very important (lunch options for example) make a snap decision and move on. For the bigger queries, narrow your decision down to three options.
I believe in trusting instincts and pushing yourself to opt for the unknown. Often when you struggle to make a decision, it’s not because you have too many options – the options themselves aren’t good enough. Experimenting therefore can open you to easier choice.
Learning to relax
Options may feel luxurious, yet too many can cause over-analysis, stress and fear of regret. I’ve managed to waste several minutes debating whether to cut another inch of hair, watch a documentary or film, and whether to buy more neutral clothing. Why do some people analyse the small stuff in the same manner they decipher grand decisions?
We’re living in FOMO times and with no shortage of options, need new skills to navigate. How do you deal with choice overload? Do you think technology has granted too much choice?