To Choose or Not to Choose?

If you’ve ever had lunch with me, you might have observed my style of ordering. Usually I make a selection quickly, because I probably picked the restaurant, know what is good, and don’t need to seek out “what else they might have” in order to make a solid choice. Frequently, I’ll say “I’ll have whatever he/she is having, ” even if you haven’t ordered yet. Why? Because whatever I get is probably good enough. To me, the meal is more about the experience of who I’m with and why than the food.

Recently I found a post-it note where I wrote “Sheena Iyergar / the power of choice.” I don’t recall why I wrote that at the time, but when I found this quote from her book The Art of Choosing, it struck home:

“There is nothing wrong with saying, ‘I’d like less choice,’ or ‘I’ll have what you’re having,’ or even ‘I choose not to choose.’ In fact, sometimes these are the best things to say. We need to rethink the assumption that every opportunity to choose among options is an opportunity to improve our lot, to inch closer to our dreams. We need to learn that choice is not just the activity of picking X over Y but the responsibility of separating the meaningful from the trivial, the disheartening from the uplifting. Choice is a powerful and motivating idea, but the choice does not solve all our problems or meet all our needs. Sometimes choice isn’t enough, and sometimes choice is too much.”

Which choices are worth making and which ones are just distracting? What is meaningful? Are you consciously choosing when you choose?

Additional readings on choice:

How to make choosing easier

Sheena Iyengar on the Power of Choice — and Why It Doesn’t Always Bring Us What We Want

The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two