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The Choices Are Killing Us

Grocery stores that carry 50 kinds of cookies, hundreds of possible cell phones, 25 fast food joints on the way home, 15 Cine with couches and stadium seating, 185 channels on cable/Satellite and Netflix/Hulu/Amazon for streaming entertainment.

The choices are infinite! And most times it’s not for our benefit, but for the seller of those goods.

In fact, studies have shown that too many choices lead to unhappiness!

In this world of hyper-choice, it’s become critical to intentionally limit your choices in order to live a content life.

In this post, I’ll help you start to limit yourself into a happier state.

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I’m a digital hunter gatherer. Left to my own devices, I’ll slowly but surely churn through the latest tech advances, evaluating and then choosing or discarding each tool.

One thing I’ve noticed though, is that a full day of this kind of “research” will leave me truly drained, slightly irritable, and almost paralyzed by what to do next.

These side effects are not limited to tech, but to the process of having to make choices.

Turns out that humans have a finite capacity for choices each day (some more than others), and that every choice we make lessens our ability to make future decisions.

A great book on this topic is “Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard” by Chip and Dan Heath.  Click the link if you’re interested in further study.

The end result is that your ability to limit your choices, to in essence, make habits of things that used to require choices, will increase your contentment, happiness, and well being.

Author and crazy human Tim Ferris advocates a lifestyle of eating the same few meals on a rotating basis.  The predictability makes meal planning and execution easier, shopping quicker, and helps to focus your attention not on the food, but on the people you enjoy it with.  It hearkens back to what is now a cliche:  Meatloaf Tuesday.  Our parents and grandparents had the same meals in rotation.

A little change like this will pay huge dividends:  I’m eating the same thing for breakfast each day, have the same lunch with three different meats each day, and have 4 dinners that we rotate each week.  The stress of mealtime is gone!  No more choices need to be made, it’s “the way it is” and I’m on autopilot in this area.

The same concept can be applied to other areas of your life:

– TV watching (cut down to just your favorite 4 shows and DVR them. Watch only 1 hour a day. Skip the commercials).

– Clothes (how many outfits do we really need anyway?  Do you think people care?  Read this post and then create yourself a “uniform” of maybe 5 outfits…maybe less.

– How long you keep paper / digital articles?  Read it in 5 days or pitch it…the world will go on!

There are numerous ways to make your life “less choice” filled!

Which area can you simplify today and start to live a more contented life?

-John