The Fallacy Of Choice

We live in a luxury of choice and we think it’s making us happier.

How wonderful must life be when your pasta sauce comes in ten different flavors, your clothing in hundreds of various styles, your partner in thousands of potential matches?

The wider the range of choice, the more nuanced they become, the closer you are to getting what you truly want, and is that not the fullest expression of our human lives, to judiciously apply our autonomy in the pursuit of maximum happiness?

There is a price we pay for that.

Choices and the freedom to make them are crucial to the modern-day human narrative but simply because some choice is necessary for happiness does not mean excessive choice will achieve the same result. That is a dangerous extrapolation.

With a luxury of choice you are made uncomfortably aware of excluding yourself from experiencing other options available, some which may be possibly better.

An excess of choice also demands data acquisition; in order to make the best choice one must collect sufficient information on all choices at hand– what is the longevity of your choice? How happy will it make you? And finally, how much happier will it make you, compared to your other choices?

As the old adage goes, comparison is the death of happiness.

The moment you begin to compare you are no longer fully present with your choice. Rather than mindfully enjoying the choice you’ve made you are myopically picking it apart until it becomes less than the sum of its parts. Allowing ourselves to be seduced by an excess of choice ultimately inhibits us from becoming truly happy.

How good can you feel about the new phone you’ve purchased, still brilliant with cellophane, when your phone provider has just announced the upcoming release of the newest model?

How excited can you possibly be about a new partner if you know that in agreeing to be with them you are forfeiting your right to go out and meet someone who might be cleverer, fitter, wealthier, more talented, more well-spoken?

The fallacy of excessive choice is that it can engender a deep-seated frustration, an anxiety borne out of all the compromises one must make in the process.

Ultimately, what has arisen in response to this frustration is a tendency to avoid committing to our choices. If you’ve recently purchased a phone that is now outmoded, you can resell it and reinvest the money towards the newer and inferentially better, model.

If you are dating you are no longer required to date seriously– with the rise of casual dating, you can make half-hearted commitments to scores of possible dates. What one lacks is sufficiently compensated for in another.

An excess of choice encourages us to live on the surface of things, hovering, ready to pull our losses the minute our choices make us regret them. The argument is that we compromise less when our investments are so shallow but I would argue we lose more when we fail to commit to our choices.

I believe there is something empowering about making a choice and seeing it through. It denotes trust in one’s own ability. It reflects positively on your self-confidence.

It also demonstrates a mastery over the deluge of choices. Instead of becoming enslaved by the excess of choice you are imposing your desire to live in the present, upon them. The deliberation of choices is time-consuming and an unhealthy amount of it is a disregard for the brevity of our human existence.

People have a tendency to associate choice with empowerment and richness, but this is only valid to an extent. An excess of choice can make the pendulum swing the other way.

To play the field, to entertain as many options at once– this engenders cowardice. There may be the perception that you are living life to the fullest but truly, you are living it shallow. You are living a cheapened life.

Making a choice and sticking with it takes courage. This is not to say you should make any choice without assessment– there should still be some careful consideration in play but do not be seduced by the legion of choices available. You do not need to experience every one of them in order to be happy with your choice.

Do not allow yourself to be inhibited by the freedom choice promises. As Frasier would say: Commit to commitment.

That takes vagina. Or balls. Or however, you want to term them. The choice is yours.

It smells like a fish has died and the other fish sent flowers.

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