Choices Have No Value

We live in a time where we have more information at our fingertips than ever before. At no other point in history have people been able to pull up so much information at the push of a button or by asking Siri, or Alexa, or Google.

Along with the information, there are now more choices available to us than perhaps at any other time. There is greater freedom of movement both geographically, intellectually, and professionally than ever. I’m not saying we have arrived at some type of societal nirvana, but in terms of information and choices, our cup definitely runneth over.

You would think, that with this vast expanse of information and choice, that people would be happy with their jobs, their lives, and their choices. Because with all of the options available, and with the ability to fully examine all of the options, they can make more informed decisions than ever.

A simple observation of the world around us tells us that this simply isn’t true.

The problem that we face, is not that we don’t have enough information, or choice, it’s that we have too much.

A professor from the Columbia Business School conducted an experiment focusing on how people deal with the options at their disposal, and how we make our decisions. She set up a display of 6 different specialty jams in a grocery store. While this display was up, about 40% of shoppers stopped and viewed the display, and about 13% made a purchase (a realized choice).

For the next portion of the experiment, she displayed 24 different jams. More Choice!!!
This time, 60% of the shoppers stopped by to view the display, but only 3% of the shoppers ended up making a purchase.

More choices didn’t lead to more choices.

The reason that this seems to be so challenging, is that, as I alluded to in this post, we often are searching for that ONE BEST CHOICE, so we begin to focus not only on trying to make the best choice, but we also focus on all of the choices that we are giving up whenever we eventually choose.

And this makes it very difficult for us to make a good decision, because we are often making it for all of the wrong reasons. Or, it makes it very difficult for us to make a decision at all.

In addition to acknowledging the fact that there is no one best choice, we also need to be aware of a couple of other truths:

1) Choices, by themselves, have no value. Until we make them.

We’ve become geared towards this idea that the more choices we have at our disposal, the better. More choices (to a point) can certainly be a good thing. When you can choose between different job opportunities, or you’ve been accepted to multiple colleges, or you have many girls begging for you to take them to the homecoming dance, in theory, you can examine your options and make a good choice.

But you can also examine your options and make a good choice when you only have one job option, one college acceptance, and one girl begging for you to take her to the dance. Generally speaking, there is always a choice, and we can always go through a process to make a good one, no matter how many choices it appears that we have.

The point is, 8 choices isn’t worth more than 1. Because you only get to make 1. You don’t get to take two jobs, go to two colleges, or take two girls to the dance (probably). So the only value, no matter how many choices that are before you, comes from the one choice that you decide on.

It’s sort of like the stock market. All of that money that you have on paper, has no real value until you cash it in. Until you make your (one) choice, all you are holding is monopoly money, with no value in the real world.

And because of that:

2) When you make your choice, you aren’t missing out on ALL of the other things that you passed up. I don’t know about you, but there have been many times in my life, where I have agonized over making a choice because I examined all of the other choices I had, and determined that no matter what choice I ultimately made, I would be missing out on many other options.

“If I go to UGA, then I can’t go to Tech, or Auburn, or Alabama, or take my gap year. Think about all of the memories I’ll be missing out on. No Ramblin Wreck, No War Eagle, No Roll Tide, No backpacking through the mountains of Cambodia discovering my inner chi.”

Yes, if you choose to go to UGA, then you will miss out on something, but not all of these things. You see, if you didn’t choose UGA, then you would have to choose something else, but only ONE something else. If you didn’t choose UGA, you wouldn’t then attend all three other schools as well as take your gap year hiking the Cambodian hills.

In economics it is called opportunity cost. It is what you give up when you make a decision, and there is always a cost. But you can’t weigh every single thing that you give up as a loss, because you could only realistically choose to do one other thing.

One of the most beautiful things that I’ve ever heard about marriage was told to me by a friend, who had the story told to him by a friend, who’s pastor mentioned it in a sermon. So I can’t give credit where credit is due. I think the guy’s name is Dave Burden from Nashville.

And the comment was something like this:

When we are married, we wake up each day and CHOOSE our spouse.

And Donald Miller says:

Love is both something that happens to you and something you decide upon.

My take is that we get to wake up each day, and choose our spouse anew, as they are in that day, with all that we have learned about them, both good and “bad”. And we get to choose to love them. Each day.

And to make it work, we should be making this choice each and every day, over and over again. In other words, from the day we say “I do” we choose and we keep on choosing.

The same holds true for all of our other choices. We need to choose and keep on choosing. We are so bad about making choices and then immediately thinking about all we’ve given up because of our choice, wondering if we made the “right” choice, and agonizing over whether or not we have done what is best for us and our future selves.

We need to let it go. The choice has been made. There are processes we can develop to help us make good choices, rather than focusing on best choices. And after we make them, we need to live with them.

Not live with them as in,

“Suffer through the consequences because you made the choice and now you have to live with it!”

But instead, live with them as in,

“Choose and keep choosing (that choice). Live with it, soak it up, marinate in it, and live it out.”

If it turns out that it wasn’t a good choice, or you want to redirect, that’s okay. Just don’t do it in response to decision making agony, or a desire to start again in hopes of finding the right choice, because you won’t find it.

There IS value in your choices.

But only after you actually make them. And only after you commit to living them out.

Much Love,
Bryan

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