YOU HAVE MORE, BUT YOU FEEL WORSE
Let me tell you a short story.
We have all gone out to a restaurant or in a bar to have a drink with our friends, right? Sometimes staying home isn’t that fun.
I usually eat and have my coffee at home, but in some really rare cases, I go out. Now, what do we usually do when we go to a cafe or a restaurant?
Obviously, we buy something, but what?
Just like you, I’ve gone to restaurants with a long list of pages with different types of dishes. If we had the exact same menu with 100 foods and we had to pick 10, we would probably pick at least 5 that are the same.
How does that happen?
Simple. You have 95 dishes + 5 recommended dishes. Guess which ones we are more inclined to pick.
We’ll pick the recommended dishes.
When we have more choices, if some type of external force is helping us pick, we’ll listen to it, because guess what, it’s hard for our brain to decide alone.
What if you’re going to a cafe that has 100 types of coffee, but 3 “recommended” ones?
Yes, we will pick one of those 3. It is the easy choice.
How we pick when there are too many choices
THE LOVE & HATE RELATIONSHIP WITH SHOPPING
We have 2 questions here.
1. How excited are you when you go out to buy a new pair of shoes?
2. How excited are you when you go out to buy food because your fridge is empty and you are already tired of what you ate the last week?
On a 1-10 scale, with 1 being the minimum and 10 the maximum, how would you rate the excitement on each of the questions?
On the first question, probably a minimum of 6, because after all, you want a new pair of shoes, so you will buy one either way.
On the second question, there’s already a problem. Your fridge is empty and you want something new to eat. That may sound exciting if you’re a great cook and you already have 100 recipes you have in your mind to cook. However, most of us, don’t have 100 recipes already in our mind, and even if we had, which one of those 100 to pick?
Now let’s go to the supermarket.
Oh, I already decided I want to eat some meat and some salad for the weekend.
Now the adventure begins.
We go to buy some meat. Chicken, pork or beef? Chicken sounds interesting, but should I buy chicken wings, chicken thighs or chicken breast? How about some liver? Come to think about it, why not just buy one whole chicken and cook it?
Before you get to the chicken meat, you have a look at pork and beef. They seem delicious and even easier to cook. A beef hamburger doesn’t sound bad at all, does it? But there’s 80% lean beef and 90% lean beef, which one might be better?
Ok, let’s just pick the 80% lean, we’ll see home if we like it.
So we’ll have to pick a salad as well. We find the vegetables. Lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli. After looking at all of them you also spot the kale and the spinach. You remember how good the broccoli is if you put some olive oil on it.
Ok, broccoli sounds good. But wait, should we buy raw or frozen? How should we even cook it? You can boil it, you can steam it or even microwave it.
Now we have 6 choices just for the broccoli.
See where I’m going with this?
We have too many choices.
Do you want to talk about toothpaste?
The different types of “whitening” toothpaste
HOW OVERTHINKING DECISIONS IS HOLDING YOU BACK
It is true that we are bombarded with choices each and every day.
What should I eat now? What should I eat later? What should I eat tomorrow?
Who to call now? Who to call later? Who to call Friday night?
What to wear?
Hint: ask Mark Zuckerberg.
All these choices give us the perception of many possibilities. Unfortunately, all of these decisions are holding us back because of one thing.
No matter how much willpower or energy you have, there is only so much brain energy you will have for taking decisions.
That is why I want to show you how all these overthinking is leading you to unhappiness. Here are the 4 reasons of why overthinking is holding you back from achieving your true potential and doing more in your life.
#1 ANALYSIS PARALYSIS
When you have 2 choices, each sitting in one corner of the room, what will you do? There is only one thing you can do.
You will think.
You can’t take the 2 items both at the same time, they are too far away. You will have to pick one of them first.
At this point, you take your time to decide which one you want to get, touch or feel first.
What if the second you touch one item, the other disappears? Now it really becomes hard to decide.
This is analysis paralysis.
You will not know what to pick, so you will waste both energy and time just thinking over it.
Should I buy an Android or an iPhone?
2 months later you’re asking yourself the same question. You’d probably be better off picking a Windows phone and just using it rather than just thinking over which one to pick but not getting either.
#2 OPPORTUNITY COST
Now let’s say you actually picked the Android phone over the iPhone.
Did you actually make the right decision?
Those iPhone users really look happy using it. You actually think about how the design is actually nicer and you might have enjoyed holding it in your hand more.
Oh wait, that new cool app is only for iOS?
Was my decision good?
Now you’re actually imagining a scale in your mind and putting each item on one side of the scale. The other side always looks more appealing, doesn’t it?
Imagine this might have been a job you picked.
You can see where I’m going with this.
No matter how you think of it, it will take away from how happy you feel with what you already have. You are thinking of the other choice and how it would have been if you picked it, instead of the actual choice you made.
#3 ESCALATION OF PERCEPTION
Let’s imagine you are going to get a new pair of jeans.
Slim fit, regular, skinny jeans, baggy jeans, never-heard-of-this jeans.
It’s clear you have all the choices in the world. It’s just up to you to make that decision.
You are sure you can find the perfect jeans since you have so many choices. You know what that means?
You are already expecting to get the best,
But what if that doesn’t happen?
As mentioned before, you will feel unsatisfied.
You had all the choices, but still, you didn’t make the perfect one, you could have done better.
See how perception affects our mood and how we feel regarding your choice?
#4 SELF BLAME
Now that you made the choice, and supposing there’s really no one else you can blame, there’s only one person your mind will be able to blame.
Unfortunately, this is the truth. If there’s no other person or thing we can blame, we will blame ourselves for not taking the decision we could’ve made. It’s just human nature.
We might feel sorry for ourselves, but that won’t help our present emotion, would it?
This is exactly why we need to shift our mindset and try to avoid these 4 mistakes.
The 4 setbacks of overthinking
HOW TO STOP ANALYZING AND START DOING
Now that I showed how all these choices affect us, it’s time to look at the other side of the coin.
I always like to keep it simple, because this is the best way for us as humans to memorize something and actually be able to apply it in our lives.
Here are 4 best tips that have helped me take better and far more important decisions in my life while taking less of the unimportant and meaningless ones.
#1 LIMIT THE INFORMATION YOU CONSUME
IFor any problem there is a number of at least 100 solutions available.
You have to filter and curate all the information there is out there.
If you know that a person or a website gives you good information, stick with it. Don’ try to learn from 100 other resources because each has a different style of teaching and you will just get bits of information from many, in a disorganised way. You will get to a point where you will still search for an answer, even though you already found it.
Set a limit for yourself.
Be it either a time limit or a number of resources you will want to look over, don’t exceed that. If you will really need more information, it will be available, but don’t just start looking for more when you already have enough to work with.
#2 TAKE FEWER DECISIONS
Not all decisions are equal.
What kind of nutritional supplement to buy is different than what book you are going to read next and much different than determining what job you want to apply for.
The more decisions we make, no matter if they are smaller and less important, the less mental energy there will be for the quality and long-term decisions.
You can limit your decisions by creating routines and habits that can make your day easier.
If you eliminate as many small decisions as possible, you will have more willpower and a better perspective on what matters most in your life.
Always look at what the most successful people are doing.
President Obama wears only one suit every day.
Mark Zuckerberg’s closet looks something like this.
Mark Zuckerberg’s closet
#3 START BEFORE YOU ARE READY
Do you want an example of a successful person who wasn’t qualified, prepared or ready, but still managed to start businesses, charities and ventures?
The owner of Virgin Airways was considered stupid and lazy in school. He was also dyslexic, which means he couldn’t read accurately and fluently. Now he’s worth $5.1 billion. Did I tell you he also has an island, you can check it out here.
Everything you do in life will have some type of uncertainty attached to it. We are always tempted to find more and more information to trick ourselves that we’ve made progress and we are more prepared. Most of the time we’re just looking to get away from actually taking action.
Most successful people start before they are ready and figure it out while doing it.
It doesn’t matter if it’s about starting a business, losing weight, writing a book, achieving the success you want or any other goals in your life. The best time to start is right now because good enough is enough to get you going.
#4 THE DECISION IS NOT THE END
What do I mean by that?
Always look to improve your decision making and the results that come with it.
Yes, you might have picked the wrong type of jeans, for NOW, but next time you will have more experience and will know what to look for. You will pay more attention to what you didn’t last time, hence making a better decision.
Let me give you another example of how you can improve, this time, writing a book.
1. Write a draft for a small audience of alpha testers.
2. Get feedback and ideas for improvement.
3. Write again taking the feedback into account.
4. Get more feedback, from a larger group.
5. Improve your writing with all the feedback.
6. After the book is published, continue to get feedback to improve your next project or in this case, book.
This is what writer Leo Babauta, creator of Zen Habits, has done to write a book, with the help of his audience.
You are probably thinking “but I don’t have an audience”.
That’s not true. You have friends and family. If you are doing something, try to get some feedback, you are not alone in this.
Make your decisions easier with the help of people close to you.
The 4 steps to help you take better decisions
THERE ARE 2 TYPES OF PEOPLE
According to Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice, depending on how we make decisions, we are switching between these 2 types.
We are always on one side more than the other.
Now let’s take a look at both of them and see where you might fit in more.
As a Maximizer, you are trying to be as accurate as possible, while being less efficient because you will spend more time.
The end result might be better, but it will also take away from the happiness of the decision and make you feel less satisfied psychologically.
Let’s imagine you want to buy a new smartphone. You will look at all the choices on the market and you will also start looking at smartphones outside of your price range, just because you fear on losing out on what is the best choice.
You try to squeeze any amount of benefit of any opportunity.
If you listen to the radio, you will switch the channel just in hope of finding something even better.
You will always look for alternatives.
What does this mean in a nutshell?
- you will feel more regretful of your purchases;
- you will be less satisfied with your life;
- you will be more depressed;
- you will be less satisfied with success;
- you will be less optimistic.
Companies are taking advantage of anyone who is a maximizer by using the power of branding.
Branding is confusing us that one thing is much more better than the other, while practically speaking, they are almost the exact same thing with minimal differences.
In this case, even after spending a lot of time before taking a decision, you will still doubt your choice.
As a Satisficer, you are trying to be as efficient as possible, while not always being the most accurate because you took the decision faster.
The end result will be acceptable, but since you didn’t overthink, you will be more satisfied psychologically with the decision.
You are always looking to satisfy your need, without taking too much time and effort doing it.
It means you will settle for choices that are good enough, at least for now.
What does this mean in a nutshell?
- you will be more grateful of what you purchased;
- you will be more satisfied with your life;
- you will be happier;
- you will be more grateful for everything you’ve accomplished;
- you will be more optimistic.
Here are 3 easy steps you can use right now in your decision making, to be more of a satisficer:
#1. Outline what you need
#2. Choose the first option that meets your criteria adequately
#3. Once the decision is done, focus on the positive aspects of the choice.
Maximizers vs. Satisficers
I made this post longer than I expected, but I still managed to make it shorter than reading a whole book.
This post is an all-you-need-to-know guide so you can understand where you find yourself when there are too many choices at your disposal. It’s a blessing and a curse at the same time.
Unfortunately, this is not what they teach you in school. A blog post like this has more value in it than a whole semester course. No matter where you are in life, this will help you take better decisions in your life each and every day.
Now it’s time for a short recap so you can look at this summary when you feel like you are forgetting these basic ideas of this post.
The 4 ways overthinking decisions is holding you back:
#1 Analysis Paralysis
#2 Opportunity Cost
#3 Escalation of Perception
#4 Self Blame
My top 4 most important tips that can help you to stop over analyzing and start doing:
#1 Limit the Information You Consume
#2 Take Fewer Decisions
#3 Start Before You Are Ready
#4 The Decision Is Not the End
We also covered the 2 types of people when it comes down to making decisions.
Which one are you?
Are you able to make better decisions after reading and learning about everything in this blog post?
This information has helped me make better decisions and focus more of my mental energy on what matters more in my life. You can do the same if you apply these principles.
If you find this post useful, please check my other blog posts as well, they are just as helpful as this one.
Final Quote to Keep You Motivated