One of the biggest dogma runs like this:
If we want to maximize our happiness, the best way to achieve it is to maximize our freedom.
That is because freedom is in and of itself something valuable, worthwhile and essential to every single one of us. It sounds logical.
When we have freedom, we can use it to do things that maximize our happiness, we’re not taking orders from anyone, and no one needs to make decisions on behalf of us. And the way to maximize freedom is to maximize choice. Most people want to make more money not because they want the cold hard cash, but money actually brings more freedom to our life.
The more choices we have, the more freedom we have. The more freedom we have, the happier we are. No one is ever questioning this.
The top goals most people have today are certainly not job security nor stable relationship and happy family. Most people want to have more freedom to choose how they spend their life in their own term.
Indeed, we are bombarded by endless choices today:
All of them should make us happier since more choice means a happier life. This belief is heavily and deeply embedded in our day to day life. But does more choice really lead to more happiness?
I’m not suggesting that more choice and freedom are bad to us. There is no argument on how more choice changes our world positively, and we all knew how more freedom brings us more happiness in the personal level.
So, let’s dive right into the negative impacts of more choice brings to us.
Just imagine what would happen if Apple actually launches 100 different models of iPhone in a year. The sales will definitely drop, why? Because there are too many models to choose, it makes it incredibly hard to make a decision and actually picks one.
The problem of it is not about the iPhone’s quality here, but the hassle customers need to go through to make the right choice. The more choice we have, the harder for us to choose. And most people will simply walk away due to the difficulty in making a decision.
The best example is a big majority of startup failures. Most startup failures aren’t caused by the lack of resources or market size, but the lack of focus of the founding team. Smart people with great ideas and endless resources have more choice, which is not always a good thing. In this case, more choice produces procrastination and distractions to focus on the most important matters at the moment.
Now, you have 5 oranges to choose from, one of them is the best orange you will ever have in this world. And this is the only chance for you to have that, if you miss it, you will never be able to get your hand on the world’s tastiest orange in your lifetime ever. How is that make you feel?
More choice produces higher expectation to each and every option you have. We now know there is a world’s tastiest orange out of the five, but our brain will assume all the five are the tastiest. Even if we don’t think so, rationally and logically, we assume we will pick the tastiest one, and we can’t accept anything less than that.
But even if you’re incredibly lucky to pick the best, you might think it’s not perfect, because you can never know how the other four oranges taste like. The opportunity cost of the other oranges leads to dissatisfaction in us. This happened a lot in many areas of our life. Some people will think their spouse is not the best because there is always a better one, even their spouse is actually the best for them.
The more choice we have, the higher our expectation to every choice. The higher the expectation, the harder for us to choose. After we make a decision, we compare our choice with the other alternatives and assume what we have is somehow less attractive, even our choice is the best choice we can make.
The solution to this problem is clear. We first need to break the dogma we believe in so much. More choice does lead more happiness to a certain point, but it’s never linear; more choice after that point, it’s clear that we become more miserable.
We should trim down the choices we have by focusing on the most important thing. Here are a few examples you can implement into your daily life now.
If you have made a choice before – for your career, relationship, or finance, focus on the choice you had already made. Stop comparing your decision with other alternatives. Instead, focus on what you decided before and make the best out of it.
We are like a fish in an aquarium. The size of the aquarium dictates the freedom we have, and some of us see it as our constraints. To grow, we need a bigger aquarium. Unfortunately, what most people are trying to do is breaking the aquarium. Without it, you’re a dead fish.
With the advancement of technology today, we are open to limitless choices. Thus, we want to believe that we could have limitless freedom so we can be happier. But limitless freedom is never a good thing. Yes, we do need some freedom to expand and grow, but without constraints, we will have no direction, no standard, no plan, and certainly no happiness.