Limit Choices & Increase Happiness



Americans like the freedom to make choices and be independent. We like our individualism and don’t like being told what to do. These are great things that have led, among others, to us being an innovative and forward-moving country.

But has anyone tried to buy a cake lately? An entire 1/3 of an aisle is devoted to cakes! Yellow, white, orange, brown, multicolored, oil or butter based, etc. And then different types of chocolate if you go with that. And don’t even get me started with all the icings. 

Thank goodness I’m gluten free so I’m pretty restricted to what I can purchase!


Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for innovation and choices but not when it comes to the point of offering so many choices that I get disgusted and walk away from even making a choice.

In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Speaking of food, let me give you some research using jam conducted in 2000 by Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper. At an upscale food market, 24 varieties of gourmet jam were displayed for sample. Samplers received a coupon for $1 off any jam. Every few hours, the selected dropped to a group of six jams also offering the coupon. On average, people sampled 2 jams regardless of whether 24 or 6 were displayed. 

Here is where’s it very interesting. 

Sixty percent of customers were drawn to the large assortment and 40% to the small one. But 30% purchased from the small display and only 3% from the large!

This study wasn't conclusive but it did raise the questions that although more choices is appealing in theory, PEOPLE FIND IT MORE DIFFICULT TO DECIDE WHAT TO BUY SO BUY NOTHING! Some have coined it “choice paralysis.” 

Other studies have revealed that more choices also causes “buyer’s remorse” and the nagging thought that they made a mistake and something better is out there.

Basically, each new option diminishes the feeling of satisfaction and well being. On top of that the increased time and effort, too many options cause anxiety, excessive high expectations, and self-blame if the choices don’t work out.

I have seen this especially with C personalities. They like lots of options but keep the data gate open so long that eventually they don’t buy or it takes so much time it causes stress. The fear of making the WRONG decision can paralyze. However, some things do require more time but beware of stress and anxiety.

On top of your customers feeling overwhelmed and possibly dissatisfied, you actually might see a decrease in sales and income if there are too many choices.

Steve Job's Genius

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple, one of the first things he did was slim down the product line, which had grown exponentially. And then he focused everyone on the remaining products to make them the best and easiest to use as possible. And it worked. 

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
— Leonardo da Vinci

As a side note…Jobs was known for his jeans and black turtlenecks. Why?Because he kept other choices in life as limited as possible so he could focus on the most important. If you study all the super successful, you see that they leverage the power of LIMITED CHOICES by eliminating all unnecessary ones.

In my personal training business, I encountered clients that wanted to eat something different every dinner with different snacks, etc. But what it did was sabotaged their weight loss efforts because instead of eating all the new dishes and different dishes, they felt overwhelmed trying to learn a new dish and one that fits within their macros so reverted to the same food that caused the weight gain in the first place.

I eat the exact same meals every day and it’s one key to managing my weight for years. Occasionally I’ll find a new recipe I like and fix regularly, but I limit my choices.

Barry Schwartz in “The Paradox of Choice” states, “Seeking the perfect choice…is a recipe for misery. This includes both big and small choices from everyday choices to relationship choices, etc. The more options you have, the more it costs you in time and effort not to mention a lack of certainty as well as decisions fatigue.

In one of my short training videos on Instagram, I talked about the fact that willpower has a shelf life. The more decisions you must make, the poorer choices you start to make and it even impacts your mood.

What To Do

1. Limit your choices. If you need to research a purchase, limit yourself to 3 websites or limit your time to research.

2. Make the most important decisions earlier in the day. 

3. Sleep on it. This is such a great strategy. It first gives you time to ponder and space to decide. Plus you wake up refreshed and sometimes clarity might come when you wake the next morning. 

4. If you have ideas or need creative inspiration or direction, record all your ideas and ponder them until one just seems to “fit.” I do this a lot. When I start the design of a new course, a new website, etc. the hardest and most intensive part is the design, the colors, etc. I literally draw out my ideas if applicable, play around with colors, and layout. Next I start inserting pics, using colors, etc. and see what works then rest from that and still ponder as I go about  my other tasks. But because I do have some C, I know that I will never be 100% satisfied and keep that in mind. 

5. Don’t go to extremes. Be okay with a middle ground. Psychologist, Dan Ariely, warns of UNCHANGEABILITY BIAS because it block decision-making. It’s ok to try something or experiment before making big decisions. For example, people who want to start a business might think they must depart their current employment before doing so and this creates a fear leading to no decision to start the business. But instead, you can do your preparatory work while holding down a job and then start to experiment with your business idea and see if you get clients and its viable. Or work part time if possible and then part time on your business. Avoid the ALL OR NOTHING MENTALITY.

6. Don’t try to figure out exactly how everything will go. Choices beget other choices. You can’t know what opportunities are going to come from your choices until you start making them. Same with obstacles. You can try to imagine potential obstacles and how you’ll handle them. But also know that predicting everything is impossible. So what if you idea fails. You learned great things in the process to take to the next idea. 

One of my mottos is “Keep It Simple and Strategic.” I created this because I tend to over complicate and crowd things with unnecessary clutter leading to frustrating and dissatisfaction. Now when I get frustrated or start things that become cluttered, I stop, say my motto, and then simplify only keeping the things that are strategic and useful.

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