Success in this world has always been a numbers game. Even in the hunter/gatherer times, a person’s success was measured by the successful number of kills in the hunt or the number of berries and fruits gathered. It was a simple life, measured by simple numbers.
The numbers and the complexity of everything today are simply staggering. Computers were invented to handle data, but the human brain shorts out with data overload. Technology has provided us with immense opportunities and choices, but it has serious negative drawbacks as well. It does not give us the time to look at these choices carefully.
How many deodorants do we need to keep our underarms from smelling natural?
How many books do we need to entertain ourselves and make us think?
How many movies must we see before we realize that Hollywood storylines are not real for us and piss our precious hours away?
How many dumb songs must we hear before we come across one that speaks to our inner being?
How many TV channels are necessary to inform and entertain us?
We often suffer from too many choices. Over choice brings with it its own form of anxiety. Having too many options drains a person mentally. We cannot process the information. It can lead to a paralysis of will and can lead to a rejection of making serious choices at all. It is easier to give up on reading than to keep up with books, easier to stop watching TV dramas than keep up with endless serials. Over choice leads to dissatisfaction with the choices that we do make because we feel forced into them unprepared.
The term “over choice” was invented by Alvin Toffler in his 1970 book Future Shock. It seems as though Alvin had it right. The future has arrived and it is surely shocking. There is too much of everything except opportunity. Seizing an opportunity depends upon making the right choices, but when there are too many of them, we can miss the opportunity when it arises because we have grown numb and confused.
Just because there are six million books to read and many hundreds of new movies made each year does not mean that we have to read them all or see them all. We decrease our freedom to choose when we have to spend too much time making choices. We kill our desire to grow and learn when we over-research every little thing.
Back in Lake Wobegon, according to Garrison Keillor, the life of choice is to make do with what we have. The motto is: “It is good enough.”
Balance has always been nature’s key to survival. A species cannot use up all its resources and still survive. When organisms proliferate to such an extent that they deplete all their resources, they die of starvation. As a species, we face that same dilemma. Unbridled greed and capitalistic emphasis on corporate profits destroy the resources of our very planet.
More often than not, extreme variety in choice is not a boon for all. Business models are beginning to realize this. People do not want a thousand colors of paint. The Glidden company reduced their pallet from 1000 to 282 and sold even more paint. Reducing competing brands and narrowing choices have become commonplace in the business.
Shopping less, cutting down on consumerism, and learning to curate that which we let into our lives has become the goal of many in this century.
The green movement campaigns for us to live more simply. Choosing to have less in a world of more seems to be the new dream and course of life for the millennials. Living simply has become the mantra of many who have long been forced to make too many choices.
The problem with that is that truly simplifying your life often requires making too many choices.