Choice Paralysis: Then And Now

Then: Build a trap to catch a rabbit, or team up to hunt down a mammoth?
Now: Order the Chicken and Waffles, or the Kale and Salsa Black Bean Burger?

I’m not trying to shame you here. Some people might see this imagery conveyed in the same way that “first world problems” was. But that it not at all my intention here and I can’t stress that enough. It’s just very interesting to me comparing the weight of the choices we have to make versus the speed at which we make them then and now. I obviously wasn’t there when our first ancestors explored the earth, but something tells me they made choices a lot faster than we do now. They had to, their life depended on those choices.

And with the exception of a few bad choices here and there, the majority of those decisions ended up working out. We know this because we’re here to know it. If our forefathers and foremothers made too many bad decisions, we probably wouldn’t be as successful of a species as we are today. One could even argue that we’ve evolved to make relatively good choices.

Then: Build near the the river for resources, or in a cave for safety?
Now: Rent an apartment in Brooklyn, or Buy a house in New Jersey?

Now that’s certainly not to say that we as a species make the BEST choices. We’re very far from that title. To make the best choice usually involves a little more long-term thinking than we are accustomed to doing. But as far as short-term decisions go, we’re professionals. So why then does something like choice paralysis exist?

If you’ve never heard of the word before, prepare to have one of those euphoric moments where your brain attaches it’s memories of strife and anguish to a concept, and you get to to celebrate the fact that your culture understands you. Or maybe you’ll just be annoyed, I don’t know. I’m not you.

Choice Paralysis is a feeling that comes from the overflow of options we now have in almost everything we do. In a society where you can choose from over 31 flavors of ice cream or from 11 republican presidential candidates, we become more afraid to pick one. It shows the limits of our inability to process high amounts of information at once and that can bring out anxiety in a lot of people. The more choices we have, the higher the chance of us being wrong.

Then: Tell others about an elk migration pattern, or paint it in a cave?
Now:  Watch Transparent on Amazon Prime, or watch Master of None on Netflix
or… whatever shows are on Hulu Plus?

This is why I like to think about early humans and the choices they had to make. Our decision making process developed over generations to be super fast because of the clear motivation that they had, pushing them to even make choices so fast it seems like they barely even thought it.

We’ve grown so much as a species since then that we have the luxury of stepping back and thinking about a choice to make the right one and that’s great for big important choices, but freezes us up for even the small ones too. The motivation on our ancestors was forced upon them so it’s good that we don’t have it as much anymore. But that means that finding a new motivation to replace it is up to you.

Then: Live or Die?
Now: …

Choice paralysis is also referred to as analysis paralysis but I think that sounds too much like a Dr. Seuss book so I stick with choice paralysis. I’ve posted some additional links below if you want to check out some more info on the subject. Thanks for reading!

Kristi Hedges-The Surprising Poverty of Too Many Choices– This is a Forbes article and kind of takes an economics approach to making choices.

Celes-How to Stop Analysis Paralysis and Make (Great) Decisions Quickly– This is more of a psychology approach to Choice Paralysis.




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