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The Option Inflation: Cost of the Freedom to Choose

The Option Inflation: Cost of the Freedom to Choose
Freedom to choose, but what to choose?Photo by Gerd Altmann

The mankind fought some serious wars for freedom and human rights. They say that the history is written by the victors, but we all know that the biggest victors are those who gave their lives for freedom and remained annonimous. They are heros, because without them the world would never be what it is today.We gained what we wanted for all those centuries, we have our freedom to choose our life partners, our education and our leaders. In 1948 United Nations proclaimed The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and those rights are equal for all nations of the world, without exception. And now we can finally say that you and I and every other person in this world are completely free to choose our way of living. It`s a beautiful feeling to know that, but we live in the real world where every beautiful thing has its price.

What happens when you have all those possibilities? Let`s say you`re eighteen years old and you think about your future profession. You have all those options, and no one is going to tell you what you should and what you shouldn`t do. And then you realize: you want a very good and safe job, with great salary, but also you want to travel the world, to get to know yourself better, and of course you want to fall in love and live happily ever after. Would you choose career or the whole new life that is waiting on the other side of your comfort zone? I suppose you have no idea. And that`s ok, neither do I.

According to The Guardian we spend nearly 92 thousands of hours in our lifetime working. That is around 3.833 days of our lives. It`s bizarre, you will agree, to imagine that we leave ten years of our lives in some office, or in a workshop, or driving a bus. Now that we know what numbers are saying we can choose our profession. Or we can`t? It is even more difficult. We are told that we control our lives, and it`s good to know that… Until we realize we are so stuck with all these options that it would be so much easier if someone else could just decide for us.

And what about all those choices we have to make every single day? As soon as you wake up you need to choose your clothes for work. If you`re a woman, you probably have a million different combinations, and it drives you crazy, because you need an hour to choose the right one. Later that morning you`re in a coffee shop ready to buy some coffee-to-go, but hey, which one: macchiato, cappuccino, latte, mocha, Irish coffee, Greek frappe coffee or affogato? In the evening you will want to relax so you`ll turn on the television, and then you`ll have to choose between a hundreds of TV channels, and finally you will fall asleep tired of deciding, evaluating and choosing.

American psychologist Barry Schwartz says in his book The Paradox of Choice – Why More Is Less that this plenitude of choices we have nowadays can lead to depression. And why is that? Because we are responsible for our lives and all our choices, but we also need to learn to live with all those chances we didn`t take.

That is what makes our freedom to choose even more complicated, we always consider hypothetical missed opportunities, and we torture ourselves because we are scared of the failure. But even if our choices weren`t always good for us, those were our decisions and they need to be forgiven. The best we can do is getting to know our own wishes and needs. It is the best solution, because sometimes logical thinking might lead us too far, and we might lose ourselves in it. So, I guess, the old fashioned advice to follow our hearts wasn`t that bad.

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