Choice blindness

There are way more possibilities available to us than we think. Most of the time, there are a huge number of decisions we’re making that are completely unconscious—automatic decisions that we take as given. Will I go to work today? What kind of clothes will I wear? How outspoken should I be? Nearly every aspect of ourselves is changeable, and yet most of the time, most of us stays the same.

Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. If we were consciously choosing all of those things all the time, we’d be completely overwhelmed. It makes sense to choose some of those things once—or not at all—and stick with that choice. The paradox of choice is real. But even when seeking to make change in our lives, the same sort of effect often leads us to disregard huge swathes of the possibility space.

Imagine you’re looking for a new job. You’re probably going to look for a job that’s in a familiar field, similar to other jobs you’ve had in the past, at a similar compensation level to your previous job, that’s geographically near to where you currently live. But that’s a tiny fraction of the possible occupations! Before even starting, you’ve eliminated nearly every job you could have. You probably didn’t consider moving to Indonesia and opening a bar, or becoming a priest, or going to school to study marine biology, or apprenticing to a carpenter, or teaching textile crafts to high school students.

Similarly if you’re looking for a new place to live. Probably you’re going to look for somewhere that’s close to your friends and your job. But you don’t have to! That’s a choice you make, consciously or not. Obviously, moving somewhere totally new comes at a cost (in dollars and otherwise), but it is a cost that can be reasoned about and traded off against, not an impossibility.

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