Have you ever felt like you want to learn everything at once? Or, were you ever craving ice cream? Any ice cream. Maybe even all of them at once. Maybe you just needed to buy dish soap. Any dish soap really. But you just couldn’t. You found yourself staring at the overwhelming amount of options.  There were too many options. And choosing sucks when there are too many options.

Having the freedom of choice is something we all strive for, but having too many choices can push us into a constant state of stress. Have you ever seen a child when they were presented with as little as three choices, or sometimes even two? At a young age, they cannot choose, and because of that, we can see their fear, frustration, and in the end feeling of powerlessness.

Barry Schwartz, American psychologists, argues in his book The paradox of choice, that eliminating choices greatly reduces stress in consumers.

So if we can observe a child having a problem choosing between just a few choices, what is then the limit for grown-ups? 20, 30, 50 … 100 choices? What do you think?

It’s 7. Seven!

No wonder we feel overwhelmed standing in the supermarket, staring at the shelf with 50 different types of coffee. I usually go for the organic one, and then just close my eyes and pick one. And when I find the one I like, I don’t really ever look at other kinds.

Recently I’ve listened to a TED talk How to make choosing easier. Sheena Iyengar, professor at Columbia Business school, talks about choices we make daily.

She tells how she did research in one of the upscale grocery stores known for an extensive product selection.

She set up a booth for free jam tasting on two consecutive Saturdays.

On the first Saturday, she offered 24 flavours of jam and on the other only 6. She monitored what happened, and discovered that 60% of customers stopped for the tasting and 3% bought the jam when they could choose from 24 flavours. When she offered 6 flavours, 40 % of the customers stopped and tasted, and 30% of those bought jam.

That’s quite a difference!

With so many sources from which to choose, we get stressed easily, and today when stress really is the last thing we need or want, we avoid activities that want that from us. Sometimes that means learning new things, trying new products, reading a new book … it can be as simple as buying a bagel.

Even though we know that choice making is stressful and we’d love to avoid it many times, sometimes there is no way out. We have to make choices. So, here are a few tips to make that process easier.

How can you make that as stress-free as possible?

1. Listen to your intuition and value your first reaction.
2. Limit your choices. What is it that you do NOT want?
3. Make pro: con list.
4. Make a plan. You don’t need to know or do everything at once.
5. Ask for help.

Until next time, have fun!

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