Are We Killed By Too Many Choices ?


In this new RSAnimate, Professor Renata Salecl explores the paralysing anxiety and dissatisfaction surrounding limitless choice. Does the freedom to be the architects of our own lives actually hinder rather than help us? Does our preoccupation with choosing and consuming actually obstruct social change?

When we have numerous choices and when forced to make a decision then we are dealing with the feeling of loss (the other choices) that can trigger some anxiety. We also feel anxious because we think we have 100% responsibility and total control of our choices. When our decisions lead to negative outcomes then we blame ourselves. Read more about Too Many Choices: A Problem That Can Paralyze

I see that a lot in coaching individuals, people who get fired for example think that it is their fault even if it is an economic decision.  People who cannot find a job feel that they are responsible for the situation making them so anxious to perform that they actually get paralyzed and eventually go to depression which of course make things worse.

Having multiple choices is of course better than no choice at all ! The idea in this RSAAnimate Video is to make people aware of the psychological mechanism of making decisions. Here is the most interesting thing that was not mentioned in the video: people react differently to abundance of choices based on their personalities. Some people will be overwhelmed because they need a lot of facts and data to make decisions and want making the perfect choice, so they might get analysis paralysis. Other rely on their intuitions and feelings and don’t pay much attention to facts and reality which can lead to very bad decisions such as buying a house they love without considering the risks and affordability. Then you have people who are very good at making quick decisions but unable to “sell”  their ideas making other  people in the family or company anxious about the other possibilities that were not explored or not explained. Finally you have people making decisions to please others, it is not their initial choice but they feel they are expected to behave in a certain way and they make their decisions ignoring their own needs.

One of the roles of professional coaches is to help people who are torn with impossible choices make decisions based on who they truly are,  their needs, their emotional perception of the situations, the economic imperatives and help them find facts and other resources to eliminate certain choices with no turn back. In other word, help them make decision with full consciousness.

Do you thinks children have too much choices and are more anxious now than 15 years ago ?

Do you feel you are not in control of your life ?

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About Anne Egros, Expat Life, Career & Executive Coach

Zest and Zen is a blog about Expat Life Challenges, Global Leadership, Intercultural Communication, Health and Wellness, Nutrition, Change Psychology, Life Transitions
This entry was posted in Executive Coaching, Life coaching, stress management and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Are We Killed By Too Many Choices ?

  1. Pingback: Leadership Thought #229 – Aspire To Reach Higher « Ed Robinson's Blog

  2. Paul Morin says:

    “Analysis paralysis” is a very real issue. It takes considerable discipline and training (self-training or otherwise) to be able to make effective decisions in such an environment of seemingly endless choices. On the other hand, as is pointed out in the article, having “limitless choices” is better than having no choice at all. I think it boils down to setting clear goals, then filtering / ranking all options based on how well they contribute toward reaching your goals, which should be prioritized. I realize that this does not always lead to a clear answer, but at least it gives you a methodology for filtering, without which we’re much like a ship without a rudder.

    • Debashis Mukhopadhyay says:

      If you have a bright mind and you are fed with a lot of information you are bound to have many choices in the beginning. I have a feeling that learning how to think objectively is the key and if you are able to add a bit of innovativeness to it you can do a lot. The next thing is pursue it till the end and be flexible to make changes as you go. While pursuing an objective it is very likely you will come across many more new ideas and goals. It never ends I suppose.

  3. I think having “too many choices” can definitely be a negative and comparing the children of today to the patients I worked with fifteen years ago, I definitely see a rise in anxiety levels as people move faster and faster and multitask more and more. We’re also doing our students no favor by replacing the “No Child Left Behind” program with the “Race to the Top” which is no better than the one it’s replacing.

  4. I feel that our children will be more prepared than us in choosing. the born interconnected and they will outperform us as we outperform our previous generations in what we have done. It’s a feeling, but I know we have the best prepared young generation ever: everybody go to school and everybody will be graduated before start working. what do you think Anne?

    • Hi Fabizio, I think we have prepared our children to adapt, the way we did such as getting PhDs or MBAs but we, babyboomers in the vast majority never had to search for a job when having such high qualifications. Now Gen Y freshly graduated do have problems to find a job even an intern one. They might excel at networking online and multitasking but not able to get a real face to face interview, dress properly and talk respectfully to prospective employers from the older generation.They may have learned to think short term because today’s economy is all about the now.

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