My mother once told me a story about visiting a library when she was a young girl. She walked in and immediately felt overwhelmed. Where did she even begin? Which of the thousands of books should she choose? Shelf after shelf, stack after stack the place was suffocating. She wandered around in a daze, left empty handed and didn’t return.
What she was suffering from is what philosopher Barry Schwartz calls the ‘paradox of choice’. Humans crave choices and the right to freedom but too much choice and the magnitude of the decision becomes paralysing and detrimental to our social and emotional wellbeing. The result is that we often fail to choose at all or go for the safe option and deeply regret our choices, adding more stress to the next time we have to decide.