Give limited options with definite boundaries
By Susan K Joseph
18th August 2012 12:41 AM
Our evening promenade at the mall had left us drained and knackered. We darted across to the swanky coffee shop and ordered cappuccino. The man behind the counter started rattling off unsolicited choices and inconsequential offers — How about whipped cream? Ice-cream? Cookies? Hazelnut sauce? I decide to tune out. Realising he just killed my anticipation over a steaming cup of coffee, I sternly retorted, “Just cappuccino please.”
They say ‘customer is king’ and having choices empowers the king. We all aspire to exercise our choice, which is the greatest indicator of individual freedom. However, in the midst of umpteen choices and abundance of information, people tend to become frozen and overwhelmed. Psychologists have a term for this — choice overload. Those individuals inevitably revert to what is easiest, effectively making no decision at all.
Walk into a supermarket in hunt of a daily moisturiser, I end up losing myself in despair over the choices available — orange, peaches, apricot, aloe, lavender and even cocoa. Have I walked into the fruit section by mistake? Sometimes one longs for the time that creams were just one type, one kind.
Are we so overwhelmed with choices in literally every aspect of our lives that we fret over decisions that should be simple, like choosing a loaf of bread? The expansion of choice has become an explosion of choice, and while it is immensely satisfying about having all of this variety at our fingertips, we also find ourselves beset by it. Which one is truly the ‘perfect’ gift? We exhaust ourselves in the search, and something that should have been a joy becomes a chore. Can we really complain? This abundance, which many of us take for granted, is not available to everyone. Moreover, whatever our reservations about choice, we have continued to demand more of it, and these demands have not gone unheeded.
One can’t deny that all this choice does come with certain benefits, and wasting several minutes in the bread aisle seems a benign side effect. What happens, though, when the number of options increases for more important and complex choices, such as those concerning finance and health? The truth is that we would not be captivated by a mechanic who will ask you to choose between two options while repairing a car or a doctor who would potentially erode his patient’s confidence by asking his preference over a line of treatment.
What we actually need is an environment that has expertly limited options with a definite boundary. Where do we require options? Choosing a career, a right destination for a deserved vacation, or may be an academic pursuit requires options that need to be well-etched. One does not necessarily need to brainstorm on whether to drink Earl Grey or Darjeeling chaai in the morning!
Until then, since you have unlimited options flung at you in every possible sphere of life, you make the choice however vexatious or satiating it may seem.
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