According to Aristotle, humanity means freedom and we are truly free when we have choices. Freedom of choice is not, however, indisputably a good thing. Psychologist Barry Schwartz argues that too many options causes paralysis instead of liberation. We are unable to make decisions, if we are surrounded by too many options. I, for example, hereby admit I only buy clothes during discount sales, not just to save money, but in order to reduce my options, because if all the products in the store were available, I would get paralyzed and not purchase a thing. Sound familiar?
Another effect freedom of choice brings is the fact that even if we manage to get over the paralysis and make a choice, we will be less satisfied with the result of our choice than what we would be if we had fewer options. When we have more options and freedom of choice, our expectations go up and even the smallest negative aspects of the results of our choice make us regret our decision, resulting in us blaming ourselves for making a bad choice. We imagine that there was a better option. In the end, this will decrease our feeling of satisfaction we get from decision making, even if the decision would have been good.
Freedom of choice → our expectations increase → we notice all the smallest shortcomings → we imagine there was a better option → we regret our decision → we blame ourselves for choosing wrong → we become less satisfied (-again, though the decision might have been good)
Hence for us to be satisfied, everything must not be possible. We must have some kind of boundaries in order to be happy.
What does this mean in today’s society where there are more options and freedom of choice than ever before? Should we go back to a time when there was only one local shop, only two types of jeans, when the telephone was only used to make phone calls, when career paths went according to family traditions, etc.? If we could go back, would we? Most likely not, and in any case, returning to something that once was, is at no time possible because the cycle must continue (with reference to Mass Effect 3 and the battle between organics and synthetics :-P).
What should we do then, when the 50/50 lifeline is not possible, calling a friend or asking a random audience does not bring certainty to our decision making and we ourselves are standing like a donkey between not two but innumerable bales of hay? Asking someone for advice could help, but no one, of course, can give a direct answer to the most difficult questions. A second opinion may be worth gold though, because it narrows down or highlights some of our options. Who knows, maybe in the future we all have personal consultants who advise us in situations where we must make the toughest decisions.