Imagine you're at a cafe.
Looking at the menu, you notice that they've added some summer specials since you last visited the shop.
You're excited by the new options you have, but soon feel overwhelmed by your options. Should you go for the new lemonade? Or your tried-and-true iced latte? Or that milkshake your friend recommended?
Does this scenario sound familiar? If so, you've probably experienced the tyranny of choice.
Discover tips to make choosing easier.
What is the tyranny of choice?
The tyranny of choice refers to the phenomenon of having so much choice that it makes people anxious and miserable.
Psychologist Barry Schwartz argues that when there are too many things to choose from, "people become weighed down by the pressure to make themselves happy."
The tyranny of choice can appear in both big and small decisions:
1. Choose when to choose
Decisions can take a large mental and emotional toll, especially when they are important to you. Focus only on the decisions that matter.
You can prioritize where you want to spend your energy by prioritizing the decisions that will:
Have the biggest impact on you
Cause you the most anxiety
Require the most planning
For the less important decisions you're grappling with, go with what you already know and what has worked before.
In the cafe example in the introduction, which drink should you choose if you're feeling overwhelmed by choice?
2. Make firm choices
Sometimes, you might feel haunted by the possibility of other options after you've made a choice. This can only lead to worry and regret.
In this case, you can treat decisions like they are irreversible, even if they aren't.
In other words, don't give yourself the option to dwell on the what-ifs. Instead, focus your energy on how to improve the current situation.
After having a disastrous first week at her job, Angela feels that she has accepted the wrong job offer. What should she do?
3. Aim for satisfaction, not perfection
The pursuit of perfection can be unhealthy. By pushing yourself to be better and seeking better options all the time, you add to your stress and worry.
Adopting a "good enough" mindset can help you be more satisfied with your choices.
Some questions to help you gauge if this is "good enough" include:
Have I achieved my fundamental goal?
Will seeking other options help me more than it will hurt me?
Why am I looking for other options in the first place?
4. Practice gratitude and limit regret
It's important to remember that being able to choose is a privilege that not many people may have in your situation.
Instead of worrying about your options, be thankful for the options you have and trust your gut feeling that you've picked the best one.
Instead of pondering another choice, focus on the good that your choices have brought you, rather than the bad that could be replaced with another option.
In a world full of opportunities, it can be easy to feel worried or overwhelmed by the sheer number of options at your disposal.
To curb the tyranny of choice, try these strategies to limit your anxiety: