I’ve used the phrase “possibilities paralysis” for over 25 years now when describing my life.
You see, I’m what you might call a Renaissance woman. There are so many things that interest me, attract me and delight me. I’ve always believed the world is my oyster, with endless opportunity and options available.
But that has also created times when I’ve encountered “possibilities paralysis”. When the sheer volume of opportunity actually creates dissatisfaction…with oneself.
In a TED talk, Professor Barry Schwartz talked about the Paradox of Choice when he said “some choice is better than none, but it doesn’t follow from that that more choice is better than some choice”.
I found his TED talk video via a comment that was made by Jason Konopinski over at Spin Sucks. In her post, Gini Dietrich says: “It turns out consumers are overwhelmed. What they really want is simplicity.”
Do you remember the days when:
You could get that in vanilla or chocolate
There was one brand of jeans
There were two choices of coffee: decaf or not
“Would you like fries with that?” was the only offered option
Today, with too many choices , psychologists say that we’re actually unhappy with any choice we make. We’re starting to put the blame on ourselves for being unable to make a good choice.
Sometimes, when confronted with a vast array of choices, we’re overpowered and simply decide to walk away, making no buying decision at all. And that’s not good news for business.
And even though we now have the capacity, via the Internet, to research choices endlessly, it doesn’t mean we should. As Professor Barry Schwartz (a professor of psychology at Swarthmore College and author of “The Paradox of Choice”) says: “It is not clear that more choice gives you more freedom. It could decrease our freedom if we spend so much time trying to make choices.”
Carrie Wilkerson, The Barefoot Executive pointed out the choice paradox beautifully when she tells the story of taking her children to a candy store and encountered “possibilities paralysis” first-hand. She said:
“The problem? They couldn’t decide! They literally wandered back and forth from barrel to barrel, afraid to choose because they might miss the ‘best’ choice!
It took us 30 minutes for each of them to choose 4 candies. Wow. (For a decisive person, that’s me, it was driving me insane!)
You might think this is an oversimplistic example…but I think it’s very accurate!… the truth is – I believe consumers are overwhelmed with choices.”
What’s been your experience with choice?
Do you feel that, as consumers, we’re being offered too many choices? Where do you find this to be most prevalent? In what business sector?
Now let’s end on a laugh, where truth is indeed stranger than fiction. Be sure to check out this little video, Ellen’s Monologue – Too Many Choices.