How To Make Decisions When You Are Bombarded with Options
Having too many options is not good for your psychological wellbeing.
I’m an indecisive person, much like a majority of people of this era we live in.
One of the biggest reasons lying beneath this trait comes from the combination of having an abundance of options for everything and being a perfectionist, an overthinker, and related to these; the fear of making mistakes.
Indecisiveness does not only challenge you when you have to make some important decisions. It can show itself even in most trivial areas of life; in fact, more frequently.
Let’s say you are going to the supermarket to buy some milk. But the question “what milk should I buy?” is the biggest source of confusion than ever before in the history of supermarket decisions.
Will it be Non-Fat? Soy? Almond? Coconut? Cow? Goat? Chocolate flavored? There are way too many options! (a reference made especially to the supermarkets in the U.S) Why can’t it be just plain old regular milk?
Now you have to consider all these alternatives; their pros and cons, price tags, healthiness, the brand, taste… It’s a tiring process. And if you didn’t prepare a shopping list beforehand, you can find yourself strolling around the supermarket with a puzzled mind and stand in front of the same aisle for the 10th time.
Having too many options seems stimulating and exciting at first because you get to have an abundance of alternatives to pick from and it gives you an eye feast, to say the least.
More importantly, it gives you a sense of freedom and autonomy because you are not limited by only a handful of options. Which can be true for some cases, but having a sea of choices most of the time does not do good to your psychological wellbeing.
Think about an ice cream shop that lined up 25 different flavors of ice cream and an ice cream shop with only 10 flavors. Which sounds more pleasing to you? Probably the former one. However, at the end of the day, you will still choose those 2–3 ice cream flavors you are most familiar with and that you like.
You most of the time don’t go out your way to try new and different ice cream flavors in every chance you get to eat ice cream; you stick with your trustable, favorite flavor, but every once in a while “go crazy” and try out the tahini or matcha or something that fancy.
So do you really need the other 15 options? They just slow down your decision-making and tire you.
Having too many options to pick from can cause choice overload (over-choice), decision fatigue, and analysis paralysis that adversely affect the decision-making process, and even affect the other — more important — decisions you have to make following those choices; make you procrastinate on deciding, and overall leave you in an overwhelmed and anxious state.
So if you can’t get your head around reaching a final decision, be dissatisfied with your decisions, or feel like you are struggling to make the “right” choice after a long haul of making decisions, here are 4 things you should consider for turning decision-making to an easier process and your decisions more right to your heart.
Lessen the options, look out for simplicity.
Studies show that when people have more options in front of them, they tend to make poorer decisions and be less satisfied with their decision, compared to having fewer options. In fact, they can even stop the deciding process and end up not picking out anything.
Next time you’re out, try out a restaurant that has fewer options on their menu, which in my opinion, when a restaurant has some staple meals on their menu and not much else, all of those options turn out to be great, compared to a restaurant with 50–100 food options but almost all of them are average.
Choose smaller supermarkets when all you have to buy is some basic home essentials.
Simplicity is what you should opt for. To me, having too many options creates similar effects with hoarding things, they both create a messy mind. That’s why minimalists have clearer minds than most individuals.
Give quick decisions, rather than thinking too long.
Here, we are talking about rather trivial decisions to make, and they are not meant to be thought for too long. The longer you take to decide, the more overwhelmed you are and increase the chance of disliking your choice, and have a bad impact on the more important decisions you have to make later on.
The first option you thought of choosing is normally your best pick, and you can easily stand by that. For example, pick out a new Netflix series to watch without thinking too long and scrolling the home page for 10–15 minutes.
You probably thought beforehand on which show you might want to watch, so give that a try rather than looking at all the other options. They are there to distract you, and most of them won’t ever be watched by you.
Decide with a clear mind.
Especially if you have some important decisions to make, studies show that you should do it early in the morning, after a good night's sleep, with a clean state of mind.
You can also give a break if you have to decide on something important during the day. In your break, unplug if you can, take a brief walk, and distract yourself with something else for a while (read a book, talk with a friend, etc.).
Having a full mind, you’re likely to be the victim of decision fatigue or overall tiredness and make some wrong decisions; or procrastinate on making an important decision because of analysis paralysis.
Allow yourself to make mistakes.
Being a perfectionist comes into play here and makes you fear making mistakes, therefore you procrastinate on deciding or you decide unhealthily on certain situations.
After all, we are human beings and we all can make mistakes.
Mistakes are the best tools for learning. So what if you accidentally chose a tasteless meal out of the menu? What if you chose to invest money in a company and it turned out to be a waste? What if you said some wrong stuff to your friend and now you are sorry about it?
These experiences teach you firsthand that not to repeat that mistake again.
To not order that meal ever again, to be more careful with where you invest your money and understand the dynamics of a wrong investment, and how not to speak to your friend if you don't want to break their heart.
Making wrong decisions can lead the way to better decisions if you are willing to learn from your mistakes.
The Bottom Line
The trait of indecisiveness is more prevalent amongst people than ever before, and it will probably be a larger problem for the next generations; as options continue to increase, and as an abundance of products and content is served in front of us.
Indecisiveness should not be overlooked and as it affects our mental health and wellbeing.
What we can do to get beneath this trait is to implement the strategies that help us more consciously decide.
We should remind ourselves not to be a perfectionist and an over-thinker, especially when it comes to smaller decisions in our day to day lives, for them not to mentally exhaust us and affect our bigger decisions. We should create a healthier relationship with deciding.