The Paradox Of Choice

Ever went to a restaurant and became so overwhelmed by the menu that you asked the waiter what their best dish was? Or became so dumbfounded at the number of Netflix titles, that you decided to re-watch some movie rather than starting something new, or gave up altogether?

Having choices can be tricky. I recently watched this Ted Talk by Barry Schwartz, having the same title as this post, where he talks about how too many choices make a person more paralysed, rather than making them more satisfied. And this seemed quite relatable, not only does the talk apply to the working-class western society, but is equally applicable to a student.

I recall a time in my college days, during my second year, when students were doing something or the other to complement their resume. Everyone was up-skilling themselves on some of the latest technologies — Machine Learning, Web Development, Blockchain, or trying their hands on Competitive Programming. But I became a victim of the paradox of choice. With so many interesting and equally important, career-defining paths to take, I ended up not committing to a particular path. I found it better to defer this decision-making process to explore the choices rather than sticking to one.

One could argue that having these many choices should be a good thing. The more the number of choices, the more are the possible paths to choose from, thereby enabling us to choose the path that seems best for us. But the paradox lies in the previous statement itself. The word ‘best’ means one out of all, there should be one winner. This is no computer science problem, where you can traverse all the possible paths and then decide the best solution. This is the problem of life. And humans tend to question their choices. What if I had taken the other decision, then maybe life would have been better? Is the path that I am following even the best for me, or is there an even better alternative that will make me more satisfied?

Thus too many choices create doubt, you start doubting your decisions. And once this happens, you put in half-hearted, less serious efforts, which are bound to make you fail, even if your decision turns out to be the correct one. You are left wondering about the other choice, the road not taken. After all, the grass is always greener on the other side, right?

So how can one overcome this problem? The most obvious way is to take a leap of faith and commit to a particular choice, put in the hard work and wait for the result. Easier said than done, right? But by doing this, one thing that you can be sure of is that if the path you took turns out to be a good one, you are most likely to be successful, because you put in the hard work, and even if you are not, then you are not the one to blame. Also, make an informed choice, ask the experienced people, after all the patient does consult the doctor before taking the medicine. This way you will most probably eliminate the possibility of making the worst possible choice if it exists. And lastly, do what you feel like doing. Sometimes, listening to your heart is all there is to making a decision.

Until then, continue re-watching your favourite TV series again rather than exploring the ones suggested by your friends. Peace!

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Coder, technology enthusiast, football fanatic!

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