How to stay afloat in an ocean of choices


If you’re anything like me – and chances are you’re just like me  – you too find it hard to make decisions from time to time because in today’s society there are more options to choose from than ever. Whether you’ve choosing where to go to college, what kind of phone to buy, or where to buy your groceries, we are bombarded with choices.

I’m a firm believer that more freedom of choice does not equal happiness and peace of mind. Yes, freedom of choice is a privilege denied to many and we should be thankful for it. But does it make our lives easier? Heck no. It causes anxiety and stress because the more things we have to choose from, the more we experience the dreaded FOM – fear of missing out.

Let me give you an example:

In my job as a travel consultant, I’ve been constantly witnessing how people sabotage for themselves by wanting more and more and more and MORE options.  usually they call in because they don’t know what to choose for their family vacation and find it hard to navigate through the jungle of different options they find on our website. I spend time asking questions and finding out what they want, and then I give them a proposal and tell them that this would be the best choice for them. They look it over and go, ”Oh, that looks great! Can I get another one?” So I give them another option that also suits their needs and wishes. ”This hotel looks awesome! Can I get another one?” I try to never ever give customers more than 2-3 proposals, but a lot of them still ask, ”Give me another option”. What they don’t realize is that they’re crippling themselves by having more options to choose from. Why do they want me to make it difficult for them when the reason they called in the first place is because they were faced with too many choices?

Why do we do this to ourselves? Because society says the more options to choose from, the higher chance you have of making the best choice. I hate to burst your bubble, but this is bullsh*t.

The ”worst” is when there is a big family with three generations who want to go on a family trip. One person has been singled out to call the travel agency to get some proposals, and this person – so petrified of screwing up and picking something that everyone is not 100% happy with – normally says something along the lines of: ”Just give me lots of options so I can show the rest of the gang the next time we meet up.” This is where I put my foot down. There have been instances when I have said to customers, ”No. I will not give you another option. I already gave you the two best options; you’ll only confuse everyone if you bring more. I’m on your side here, buddy. So no, absolutely not.”

I was struggling with the responsibility of Freedom Of Choice! in a major way when making decisions about my education. About a year ago I read a great book called The Paradox of Choice and I wish it was in the curriculum of everyone’s senior year of high school. It’s so important to know that your are not spoiled and ungrateful and indecisive just because you are overwhelmed by choices from time to time. It would be crazy not to be. Today’s culture puts a lot of pressure on us to make the best choice because how lucky are we to have all these options? You would be an idiot to just choose the first best thing that comes along!


Want my advice?

  • Find two options to choose from. Three if you absolutely have to, but never ever more than three. Make this non-negotiable, whether you’re choosing a doctor, ordering from a menu in a restaurant, or picking a destination for a trip. Studies prove that you will literally be unable to deliberately choose something if you have more than three options.
  • Don’t believe them when they try to tell that there is only one best option for you. Truth is, a number of different options would be great for you. So narrow it down to two options, make a “pros and cons” list, and just pick one. Either one, they’re both great. No, really. I promise.
  • Stop focusing on all the things you’re not choosing. That’s the whole point narrowing it down to two or three options. If you’re always worried about making the wrong choice and missing out on opportunities because you didn’t choose this and that, you’re setting yourself up to be anxious and miserable. FOM is a huge energy drainer! Don’t let it control you.
  • Be aware. Every change starts with awareness. Try to notice how much harder it is to choose something when you’re considering more than two or three options. Witness it. Catch yourself doing it. It’s only when you’re aware of the stress it causes that you can deliberately choose not to fall down that trap.

Xx Christine

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