Why Having More Alternatives Can Make People Indecisive

A writer’s views on the paradox of choice and how to make the best out of it.

Tim Ferriss of The 4-Hour Workweek fame hosted an interesting guest blog post by Claire Williams, author of The Choice Effect. She explores the reasons why too many choices can paralyze us, taking singles as the focus of her thoughts and coming up with some approaches to resolve this tendency.

If you love choices and think the world is your oyster, you’re a choister. Today’s twenty- and thirty-somethings approach life and love very differently than past generations. The explosion of choices now available has impacted our desires and expectations, and led us to reconsider traditional decisions. Young men and women are increasingly reluctant to make the ultimate commitment and get married, and much of that is due to all the other glittery options out there competing for our attention – friends, professional success, 30 Rock, the people in the world you haven’t yet dated.

Claire takes examples from her own life to explain some of the possible approaches one can take to avoid becoming paralyzed. She is engaged to a man from a different country with a contrasting culture and lifestyle. Even with small hiccups in their relationship due to cultural differences, Claire and her fiance have managed their love lives successfully.

We make trade offs in our love lives – J’s cultural “shortcomings” are made up for by key compatibilities. As I’ve come to believe, a man who has never tasted peanut butter can still make an excellent father. So think about what you need. Not a never-ending wish list about how the perfect partner will want to attend Lilith Fair and share your love of Neti pots. Pick the stuff that matters and find someone with those qualities.

She also suggests avoiding distraction from people of the opposite sex, when in a relationship with someone and having the common sense to choose a partner with same interests and likes. She allays the fear most people have; that making a choice means they’ll have to close the door on all the other options.

Choosing doesn’t limit choices—it just changes them. So feel free to pick that city, that career, that partner, knowing that even commitment brings a whole new set of options – children/pets/red and blue houses – to be excited (and angsty) about.

Four Hour Work Week: “Why Are You Single? Perhaps It’s The Choice Effect”

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