The forever 'maybe' generation
How to survive the paradox of choice
In 2005 Barry Schwartz gave his TED talk on the paradox of choice, explaining that having more choices in the world do not make us happier. Even though he warned us that it would make our lives more miserable, the number of choices have not dropped in the last twelve years. He briefly mentioned the struggles of his students in 2005, the millennials. For us millennials it is not only about who we choose to start a family with. It is about if we actually want to have kids, if we should wait for someone better to come along, if we believe in long-term relationships at all. We did not only grow up with unlimited access to products, information and travel destinations, but also with the option to question traditional values and choosing not to go down the beaten path. These choices are meant to make us happier, but at the same time being overwhelmed with these make us paralyzed. If endless choices make us miserable, how do we survive?
Mind your own business
Picture an attractive person sipping a twenty dollar mojito along a beach of a five star resort on the Bahamas. Why would you not be jealous of that? Rationally, we can understand that the pictures we see on our social media do not always resemble the truth. However, emotionally we are still triggered with doubt if it should have been us that bought a round the world ticket. Spending time on social media, it is easy to get fooled and to believe that things that make our Facebook friends happy also make us happy. Protect yourself from being tricked and start minding your own business. What do you really value in life? Who do you want to be surrounded with? What do you want to achieve? Following others is easy, choosing what you really want takes courage. Tame you feelings of doubt by knowing what makes you happy.
Limit your choices
The freedom of choice does make us happy, but, according to Barry, not if there are too many. The regret of not choosing the (potential lesser) alternative, missing out on the opportunity and the high expectations that come along with more options make us dissatisfied. We all long for staying in on a Saturday night once in a while. But knowing that you might miss out on a life changing crazy party does not make staying in as satisfying. And when you're at that party, you might feel that you miss out on that magical date you declined for it. To avoid these feelings, filter your options. If you don't like serial dating, do not download Tinder. If you don't feel like hanging out with people, turn off your phone. Create an environment where you won't get tempted with choices you don't need.
Dare to choose
With too many choices and the pressure of having no time to make mistakes, we are afraid to make the wrong choice. We might think that keeping our options open is the best way to avoid this, but have you heard of the story about the starving donkey? Placed in the middle of two stacks of hay, the hungry donkey couldn't choose which one to eat and dies of hunger. By waiting too long to make a choice, you might miss out on something beautiful. Doubting between making a career or start your own business? The right choice is just to make a choice. You might get fired or go bankrupt. But this allows space for other things to grow, like getting inspired with a brilliant idea during your unemployment, connecting with the right headhunters/investors and having the impact you have always longed for. By letting the years pass, keeping a low profile and daydreaming about it just guarantees that you miss out on something extraordinary. Don't wait and let your FOMO (i.e. fear of missing out) guide you, be bold and choose!