How many decisions do you make in a day? Do those choices contribute to your happiness?
I've been doing #project333 for over 3 weeks now and I keep going back to this concept of the paradox of choice. When I had to choose the 33 clothing items to keep for the 3 month experiment, it was a bit overwhelming. There was a lot of what-ifs. What if I needed this skirt to go to some unnamed event, what if these jeans I've chosen will not fit me later on. Today, when I get dressed, I don't look at a closet full of stuff, instead I look at a few key pieces selected by me from my existing set of clothes. Each one fits well. Each one can be mixed and matched with the other.
Barry Schwartz in his book from 2004, The Paradox of Choice, argued the following:
This is an interesting thing about choice and options. Having a lot of choices and options can actually be overwhelming for us. A lot simply can be too much to process. In Happy Money, the authors posited that buying things never brings about the happiness that we want because there's always something better out there. There's always another option to choose and in the end, nothing is ever good enough for us. So instead of being happy at acquiring a new object, we instead keep worrying about what we are missing out. Social media also helps to exacerbate this problem especially in the world of real-time updates and live video streaming. So while the freedom of choice is good for our well-being, there is a point where too many choices is detrimental to our well-being. Too many decisions can sometimes paralyze us, mostly out of fear of choosing the wrong thing. That point will vary for many of us, but I can guarantee to you that we could all use a few less decisions in a day.
With anything in life though, you do have a choice. You can choose to live with less. You can choose outside of society's normal conventions. Minimalism can help with this. Minimalism begins with getting rid of unneeded and unused possessions. This greatly reduces the time you spend maintaining your things, worrying about what to do with your things, and wondering if your things are good enough. Minimalism is also about really thinking about what you value. In most cases, it won't be about stuff so instead of buying stuff, you save more money which means you may not have to work as much which ultimately leads to more time. More time leads to more options to do what you want to do. More time may lead to more productive pursuits. Minimalism asks you live with only the things that truly matter which means you learn to appreciate what you have. Each object, each interaction, each time spent is done with intention. Intention leads to appreciation and in the end, greater happiness.
There are so many great examples where limiting choices and keeping things simple increases its power.
Think of Steve Jobs and his uniform of black pants and a turtleneck. Think of Barack Obama who wore the same suit when he was in office. Think of all of the decisions these two people in power had to make. I'm glad that figuring out what to wear did not take up too much of their time.
Think of when you go shopping at Costco. You will find a limited set of brands which makes it easy to choose something and ensures you don't leave Costco empty handed.
Think of when you go to google.com. It's one and only job is to make your search easier so the only thing on the site that is prominent is a search bar.
Think about all of the decisions you have to make in a day. What would you like to eliminate? How much smoother would your day go? Here are some examples of some decisions points and how you can eliminate them.
- What to wear? Right now, there's probably 100 permutations of an outfit from your closet. Our brains will try to piece a few of these permutations together. How much time and effort is this in the morning? How many minutes do you spend in front of the closet, trying things on? The solution to this is to create a uniform with basic and timeless pieces to eliminate choices and speed up getting reading in the morning.
- What to eat for breakfast? There must be a few combination of breakfasts items that can be mixed and matched to satiate your hunger. How long will it take to decide what to eat? How much time will be taken up thinking about how to prepare the meal? Keep breakfast basic. Stick to breakfast items that will leave you full.
- How to get to work? I'm sure you may have a way to work already, but sometimes an accident may cause you to detour. Instead of you coming up with the best route, use an application like Waze to figure out the fastest route. Leave the thinking up to them.
- What to have for lunch? By 10am, many of us start thinking about when to have lunch. We then start asking our co-workers about what to have for lunch. We probably waste a good 30 minutes of our morning figuring when to have lunch, what to have for lunch and who to have lunch with. Make it easier by bringing your own lunch so that you don't have to decide on what to eat. You save money and time in the long-run. You can still eat with co-workers.
- What to cook for dinner? Many of us are overwhelmed with planner dinner. There's just too many options. This sense of overwhelm with preparation, cooking and dishes will usually lead us to just order take out or eat the unhealthiest of meals. This is why some food prep companies work because they give you the ingredients and the recipe. You don't have to decide what to cook and how to cook it. To save money and sanity. Plan your meals for the week so that your ingredients are ready and available.