What drives us crazy?
1. Too many Choices – Lay a ton of crap in front of us and try to make us want it.
2. Too many Decisions – Trying to decide on the right option will make us crazy.
3. Too many Opinions – Once we have made all of those decisions we form all kinds of opinions on them. These opinions deepen the insanity.
I’ve read about this problem in a few places. Barry Schwartz writes about it in “Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less”.
“By synthesizing current research in the social sciences, Schwartz makes the counterintuitive case that eliminating choices can greatly reduce the stress, anxiety, and busyness of our lives. He offers eleven practical steps on how to limit choices to a manageable number, have the discipline to focus on the important ones and ignore the rest, and ultimately derive greater satisfaction from the choices you have to make.”
The idea is that the abundance of choices we have to make, or more importantly, feel we have to make on any given day creates internal tension that can lead to stress and unhappiness. We don’t even realize these choices are slowly and insidiously taking us down.
Seng-ts’an, The Third Patriarch of Zen, said:
“To set up what you like against what you dislike
is the disease of the mind.”
A good friend of mine, a Russian from Kiev before the wall came down, recounted a story to me abut the first time he came to America. He arrived in New York in the winter time and decided he needed a new coat as his old one was getting worn out. Going to Macy’s was an exciting and new experience for him, but when he got there and looked at the amount of coats they had available in the Men’s Department, he became overwhelmed at the choices, had a huge melt down and ran out of the store without a coat!
Here in Guatemala we go to the market two or three times a week to get produce. The interesting thing is that the markets basically have the same items for weeks on end. One kind of lettuce, one kind of tomato, one kind of apple. In America we would probably think of this as a bad thing. The more options the better! But here we have found it incredibly liberating to know what we are getting every week. One less thing to think about!
So a simple thing like food shopping has taught us a great lesson. The less decisions we have to make about what we are buying, the less stress we feel.
It’s a hard thing to practice back in the US, but hopefully, when we return, we can apply what we have learned here and try to make our lives easier and less stressful.