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Avoid Option Paralysis

We all make a myriad of choices every day, whether it’s unconscious ones like which sock to put on first, minor ones like picking the cereal for breakfast, or major ones like deciding whether to change jobs. Plainly, without the ability to make choices, none of us would be able to function in our everyday world.

While trouble deciding between Chai latte and Moccha cream might not have any bad repercussions except annoying those waiting in line behind you, in a business setting postponing decisions can cost real money.

There are several main reasons, why someone might be hit by decision paralysis:

No clear goal

You know you want to buy a car, but with no clear idea what you’re going to do with it. How many seats do you need, would it be used mainly for city driving or the highway, will you be hauling stuff, and how often will you drive anyway? If you don’t know any of this it’ll be almost impossible to decide even what category of car you’re looking for, whether a truck, sports car, or minivan. Having the choice between every make and model out there without knowing what’s actually needed makes choosing pretty much impossible.

The strategy to avoid this pitfall is obviously to think ahead and have a fairly clear idea of what you want before you start looking.

Little to no distinction between options

This aspect is one which at first glance you have very little influence over. If, according to all requirements that you set out initially all options are equal, you can either just pick one at random, or come up with a secondary distinction. So, if all the cheese you find at the supermarket is made the same way, with milk from happy cows and identical use-by date, it’s perfectly fine to just pick the one which is wrapped in your favorite color. Or close your eyes and just take one.

The point is to stop looking for differences that are either not there or do not matter.

Too many options

We all think that more options will make us happier. When you have few options, that is true. Studies have shown, however, that at some point the effect disappears and even turns negative. People who had countless choices tend to be just as unhappy with their choice as those who had no choice at all. Simply put, people start worrying about all the great choices they missed out on by picking the one they did.

Too much information

There is always a point where a good thing can turn into too much. While having a handful of distinctive traits available to compare different options, there is always such a thing as too much. Especially when it comes to technical details, people quickly become overwhelmed. Who really knows whether a “3x compendiator” is better than a “double potentiator” for your latest gadget? Often not even extensive research can answer that question. (Don’t even try, I made those up.)  It is understandable that some people as a result decide to not decide rather than potentially make a bad one.

Perfectionism

This is probably the element with the biggest influence, all others mostly magnifying this one: The desire to make the perfect choice, even if there might not be one. There is no “the” best car, it always depends on the person, their need, their tastes, and other circumstances. It can change. What might be best one moment, when you try to drive the kids and their friends to the park might not be best when trying to find a parking spot. It seems unlikely that someone keeps looking for a foldable small car that can, at needs, plug in some wings, but in many cases and other less obvious circumstances, people do just that.

What can be done?

If you’ve recognized yourself in some of the above mentioned scenarios, you already have the advantage of knowing there is need for change. Applying a little bit of discipline to your decision making process can make your life so much easier.

Look at what you need

Define what you want (a bit of research is helpful at this point, but should not be excessive. Set yourself a time limit in advance and stick to it)

Start your search ..

.. and stop looking once you’ve found one that fits your established requirements

Really stop looking. You have yours, an every reason to be happy with it.

Will you stop looking at what other models have to offer already? It doesn’t matter is there’s a sale now. The other car might have a top speed of 200 km as opposed to your 180, but as you’re only doing city driving, what does it matter?

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