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March 22, 2010 / The_Mike_Johnson

I Have Too Many Choices and Cannot Decide

And you thought jelly only came in a few flavors.

I came across the article, “Too Many Choices: A Problem That Can Paralyze,” from the February 28, 2010 New York Times and unfortunately, I can easily get paralysis by analysis. The whole problem comes down to “an overload of options may actually paralyze people or push them into decisions that are against their own best interest.” This happens to me when I try to be an informed consumer and not only find the best bang for my buck, but a product that will last forever (or at least a few years.) When I start on my journey seeking out information, the next thing I know is that I have spent twenty hours looking at all my options for such items as a laptop, cell phone, digital camera, and digital video camera to name a few things. I even had the same experience that Alina Tugend spent seeking out internet, phone, and cable television service a few years ago when I moved to a new apartment:

“A while back, I spent a great deal of time trying to decide which company should provide our Internet, phone and television cable service. I was looking at only two alternatives, but the options — cost, length of contract, present and future discounts, quality of service — made the decision inordinately difficult. This was not only because I wanted to get the best deal, but because the information from the companies was overly complicated and vague. I suspected that both companies were less interested in my welfare than in getting my money — and I didn’t want to be a sucker. This was a problem partly of choice overload — too many options — but also of poor information.”

Whatever choice I make, I then end up for a weeks after making my decision looking at my other choices to see if I did indeed pass up a better bargain. I am left unsatisfied by my choice that is cited in the article:

“Research also shows that an excess of choices often leads us to be less, not more, satisfied once we actually decide. There’s often that nagging feeling we could have done better.”

My first blog post was about TED videos and one of my recommendations was by Barry Schwartz, that knows the topic of too much choice very well:

“Since, fortunately, most of our decisions are less weighty, one way to tackle the choice problem is to become more comfortable with the idea of “good enough,” said Barry Schwartz, a professor of psychology at Swarthmore College and author of “The Paradox of Choice” (Ecco, 2003). Seeking the perfect choice, even in big decisions like colleges, “is a recipe for misery,” Professor Schwartz said. And even though we now have the capacity, via the Internet, to research choices endlessly, it doesn’t mean we should. When looking, for example, for a new camera or a hotel, Professor Schwartz said, limit yourself to three Web sites.”

Even in this modern age where we can easily put our query into Google, there has to be some limits. I will just have to accept my choice and move on; right after I check one more price…

You can read the full article here.

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