Personal Strategies On Dealing With Too Many Choices

One of the issues we have to deal with in life is the presence of too many choices, which can make it difficult to decide what one wants to do in the face of the need to choose and to choose now.  If you have ever stood in an aisle in a supermarket and stared at dozens of choices for crackers or root beer as I have, or if you have been told that within a week you have to choose somewhere to go in less than a couple of months because your original option was closed due to the roni, you know what I mean.  When you are at an unfamiliar restaurant and stare at a menu, how do you choose what to eat?  On what grounds does one select among the choices available with a minimum amount of regret, and what are the standards for coping with so many options as many of us, especially in the affluent world, have to deal with?  What sort of strategies can one use to approach this problem?

One strategy one can offer is the strategy of novelty.  If one has to choose, for example, between different destinations for the Feast of Tabernacles as a second choice because one’s first choice is closed down, or one is faced with dozens of similar options to eat, one thing that one can do is pick among options that one is not familiar with.  I consider this sort of thing to be more than a bit of an experiment.  To make an unfamiliar choice is to add to one’s list of things that one has tried out and that one can compare with previous options.  Is the option better or worse than others?  Perhaps it is possible to rank it among available options or determine what sort of mood one would enjoy it in, or what tradeoffs it presents when compared to what one is already familiar with.  Whether one likes it or doesn’t like it or finds other options better, one can at least know where to rank it when compared with something else and that is knowledge that can useful in making choices in the future, at the worst as something that can be scratched off and avoided in the future, and at best something that can be a new go-to choice when available at the right price.

Digression:  An alternative to the novelty strategy is the rotation strategy, in that one can choose among available options that one knows that one likes that one has chosen the least recently as a way of keeping the various options that one knows one likes fresh and avoid having something enough to get sick of it.

One strategy that is directly contrary to the strategy of novelty and also distinct to the rotation strategy is simply to pick one’s favorite option.  If one has either tried enough options to have a good idea of what one likes or one has an option that is good enough that one judges other options not worth trying as they are unlikely to be preferred, one can simply choose something that one likes and make the same choice over and over again, essentially ignoring the novelty that one is presented with in various options.  This is certainly a strategy I adopt sometimes, and it can be comforting to have a regular order that one knows one likes and that one can stick with, to appreciate the comfort of the familiar in a world that is constantly seeking change.  There are, of course, risks with such a strategy in that the familiar may not always be an option for one reason or another, but there are certainly times and places where this can definitely be an enjoyable option to make sure that one has made a choice that one will like without having to worry if one might like something better.

Digression:  There are other ways that one can make a choice among favorites that allows for a little more flexibility than that of rotation or favorite, and that is adopting a strategy of gamification, making a game out of choices and allowing them to be made with a sense of play.  This is particularly worthwhile when one is making choices with others for snacks.  One can divide up the requirements for a meal based on courses and have a different person make one, or one can give basic parameters to choose from and compare what people choose among the available options, so as to provide choices as well as plenty of opportunities to find amusement and conversation about the different ways that people approach the same task.

There are strategies that one can adopt that do not focus at all on the options themselves but on the context of those choices.  The most obvious of these strategies is to adopt a price strategy that chooses the cheapest among those options, or that provides a budget for the choices that one makes that encourages trade-offs to splurge on one thing but to pay for that by adopting a stricter price approach to other things that one judges as less important.  One can adopt variations among this strategy, such as choosing a given item that one will get and then choosing the least expensive brand option within that segment or set of items.  One could even adopt a maximum price option and then choose one’s favorite option within those constraints, which is a variation of the budget approach applied to just one item instead of a basket of items.  Depending on one’s circumstances there are many options that one can choose based on budgets that allow for some flexibility in one’s choices while reducing stress over the choices that must be made to an acceptable level.  Whatever choices one makes, one can deal with the choices that life presents, and the habit of developing strategies can help one to cope with reality and maybe, on occasion, even improve it.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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