Choice is at the Root of all Unhappiness

Too many choices lead to confusion, unhappiness, and regret. No matter what we decide, we later think about all the options we left behind.

As technology advances so do our choices. There are now 40 different toothpastes to choose from, 50 different loaves of bread, and even milk isn’t the same anymore. There’s whole milk, skim milk, 2% milk, 1% milk, coconut milk, almond milk, rice milk, and every type of milk you can possibly think of.

We have so many choices that a greater and greater portion of our lives are wasting away while we decide things. We’ve switched from actively doing things to actively thinking about things and it’s getting worse.

Why do we need all of these choices?

Somewhere along the way somebody convinced us that being able to choose would result in greater happiness. Yet today, we see the opposite is true. People are less happy than they were 100 years ago when there were fewer or no choices at all.

Think of an automobile, you either had one or you didn’t. The same model was sold to everyone. The choice was to own one or not. Now you can pick out a brand, a type, a color, and way too many options.

You don’t even need money to get one anymore, you can borrow it. So now you have to decide who you want to borrow the money from, and by the time you actually get a car and drive it home, most people are pretty exhausted over the entire process.

best seth godin quote

Sometimes a new car or house purchase can consume our minds for weeks or even months.

Something as simple as eating, has become a topic of conversation and debate. 100 years ago people used to eat just to live and they ate whatever they had available.

Today, we live to eat, and there are so many choices that the question “What do you want for dinner?” is too hard for most people to answer and sometimes it turns into a lengthy conversation or argument.

We are flooded with choices, there are just too many. We are now spending our days in a decision paralysis. We innately want to make the best choices possible so we take every choice way too serious.

No matter what you choose, you’re always going to wonder if you would have been happier choosing differently. You’re always going to wonder about all the things you didn’t do and how differently your life may have turned out.

That job, that school, that move, or that relationship you did or didn’t take; they’re always going to drive you mad if you dwell on them. If you dwell on all the things you left behind you can never live in the present and enjoy your life. You can never move forward because you’re always looking back..

The grass is not greener on the other side, it’s greener where you water it. There’s a reason that you made the choices you made and there’s no going back. For as much as you wonder whether or not making a different choice could have been better for you, remember it could have been worse.

jam study on choices and results

There are some things we can do to reduce the amount of choices we’ll have to face.

If you’re not really concerned all that much with what you eat, then go ahead and eat the same thing for every meal, using the same brands. If you can’t eat the same thing daily, then make weekly menus and stick to it. This would cut out all the time you spend deciding what to buy from the store and what to eat for each meal of the day.

This puts food on autopilot, no thought required.

Wear and buy the same type of clothes, have family days on the same day each week, have date nights on the same night each week, and so on.

Start automating things.

Think of how much time you would save if each morning you woke up you already knew what was for breakfast, what clothes you’re wearing, and that it was date night with your wife tonight at your favorite restaurant.

I start everyday off with a fruit smoothie with protein supplements mixed in, no questions asked. I simply buy a bag of frozen fruit and when I wake up I dump it into the blender, add water, and go.

I exercise in the same way, in the winter I run for a set amount of time everyday on the treadmill and in the summer I run outside or bike on a set schedule. The only decision I have to make on the treadmill is what TED talk I’m going to be watching, but I never have to worry about gym memberships, times, or workout plans.

too many consumer choices

Save the decision making for things that matter to you. If you don’t care where you work and you have choices between three jobs that pay the same, draw from a hat, whenever you can go without preference, then go without preference.

Whenever you’re stuck in a decision paralysis, just pick something, anything, and try it out for a few weeks. If it works out, great you’re on the right path, if it doesn’t, no problem, pick the next thing and try that out.

Eventually you’ll get yourself on the right path, but if you’re afraid to pick any path, you’ll never get on the right path and you’ll never get to the right choice. Life’s journey isn’t all that straight forward. You’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to fail, and bad things are probably going to happen.

But if you don’t put yourself out there, if you don’t take risks, and you don’t try everything you can — then you’ll never find your way. Decision paralysis is one of those bad things that happen to you, it doesn’t leave you with enough time to actually enjoy your life.

The best way to rule out choices is to pick one and give it a try. If it’s not the right one, it’s one less choice you have to make next time.

3 thoughts on “Choice is at the Root of all Unhappiness”

  1. Awesome! I stumbled on your blog today and I just love it. I like the way you think, there’s a whole lot to learn from you… You are so right, there’s so much decisions to take I worry we soon won’t be getting enough breathing time. I wonder, why does a simple act like posting a comment have to be a decision? Why can’t instinct take care of some things for us?

  2. Awesome! I stumbled on your blog today and I just love it. I like the way you think, there’s a whole lot to learn from you… You are so right, there’s so much decisions to take I worry we soon won’t be getting enough breathing time. I wonder, why does a simple act like posting a comment have to be a decision? Why can’t instinct take care of some things for us?

  3. I really love your posts! I am doing an artwork for a school project about all the choices we have to face in this era and how it differs from a 100 years ago… It is also about how so many more people are suffering from anxiety because of all our choices… sometimes I wish I just had one choice for everything. I am also trying to figure out how the mind and soul is connected and how you can “switch off” your mind so that you can follow your heart and ensure a happier choice made, with maybe no regret. Is it better to over analyze every choice, think it through and make yourself crazy wondering ‘what if THIS happens if I make this choice, but if I decide on the other choice, what if THAT happens??’ All the while just making yourself upset… or is it better to stop trying to think about all the consequences and listen to your heart? Would that make you happier? What do you think? I would be very grateful if you could give me some more things to think about… Thank you for all your amazing and insightful posts!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *