My mother has a curious way of giving us choices to choose from. It is nothing odd, or different. But the way she phrases our choices is so perfect that we will realise that there never really was a choice until after we’ve chosen. If that sentence does not make any sense, I will elaborate. A standard conversation between me and my mom about breakfast will be with my mom giving me two or three choices. I am expected to respond with one of the three.
Naturally, being given the two or three choices and being asked to choose one makes me think I am deciding the outcome. It takes my dad’s rumbling laugh for me to realise that I have no choice if I don’t like or accept what she suggests. The difference is subtle. It is never ‘what do you want for breakfast / dinner?’ It is always ‘Shall I do this or that.’
By limiting the choices, she actually has a semblance of control while we also have the ‘freedom of choice’. That is how it works. From things as trivial as the day’s dinner to the much more complex lifestyle questions, I have grown to admire the way she deals with them, the clarity of her thought process and her absolute complete refusal to overthink.
The abundance of choices is actually a curse, leading to a severe dissatisfaction and a constant state of ‘what if’.
Limiting choices reduces our dissatisfaction, and leaves us less options to wonder about. The lesser the number of forks in the road, the lesser the gnawing worry about what would have happened if one had chosen the other fork. Deciding on the initial choices takes more than just quick thinking and courage. The number of people who can limit their choices also have the ability to narrow down on what works best.
It may not always be the best approach, and it probably will be better to wait and have more choices. But the fact remains that the more the overthinking and analyzing, the more chances of it all becoming confusing. Every option has its own sets of pros and cons and has its own reasons. What works for someone might not work for someone else.
More than by themselves, choices are also decided based on each individual’s circumstances and the pragmatic constraints that others cannot know. To this day, it is only my mother who knows if she has the batter for Idli or Dosa when she offers me those choices or distracts me from that. To her credit, whenever she has asked me to decide what I wanted, whatever I wanted, I become like a kid in the candy shop, where everything seems so wonderfully enticing and choosing one might mean serious disservice to the other choices.
A tough situation.
When given the ultimate freedom to think of what I want, I end up with a blank because all of a sudden, I can have everything, so choosing one thing becomes increasingly difficult. The psychology of choices works overtime and I spend a longer while actually choosing one. And an even longer while worrying about what would have happened had I chosen the others.
Deciding on a set of choices is more about understanding what suits the best at a given point in time. And this is why it is far less complicated to have a limited choice set to begin with. The number of options available to second guess will reduce, resulting in peace of mind. There is no lack of freedom in limiting the choices, nor is there absolute happiness in having a huge variety of bamboozling choices.
The human mind can be easily tricked into believing that there is an availability of choices easily, and it need not be from anyone else. We can create our own choice sets, understanding the necessities of the day. Ruing the lack of / excess availability of choices and spending time in a perpetually dissatisfied state leads to other confusions. If I had to spend every morning wondering what breakfast I would like, I would waste valuable time on things that are not going to have any long term effect.
Yet another effective method to decide on the choice set is to understand the direction and magnitude of its effects. It is logical to spend lesser time deciding on choices that do not have long term effects. Most often, we spend a lot of time giving the available choices more time than they deserve, creating situations that were not there in the first place. My mother’s method has proved effective in almost all of life’s situations, and if there is one lesson I learn from her, it will be not to overcomplicate life, and not to overthink choices.
It is a learning curve.