Decision paralysis


An amazing phenomenon has transpired from the time I was a child in the 1960s to today. That phenomenon is, primarily due to the information age, people now have to make many more choices than say, 50 years ago.

Consider this. As a person growing up in the sixties where I lived, we had 4 choices of what to watch on television. In my household, in actuality, we had only 2 choices. We lived in an area that had an NBC station, a CBS station, an ABC station, and a PBS station. However, in our home, we only watched NBC and CBS. ABC was at that time on a lower tier. And no one in my house watched anything on PBS.

CBS was our first choice, and most programs we watched were on that channel. It was not until my teens that a new, independent station came on the air for part of the day. Sign-on was 3:00 p.m., and it went off the air sometime during or right after prime time.

If we did not like what was on those stations, we turned the set off and usually went outside and played. We could also choose to read. Either that, or we watched whatever was on even if we did not like it. At no time during a program did we change the channel.

Today, I have hundreds, possibly thousands, of choices to make concerning what to watch. Even though I have cut the cable cord, I subscribe to a non-cable or non-satellite service where I can still get those same channels. Plus, there are seemingly countless apps I can use to watch practically any type of entertainment or informative program I desire.

Yet, I find myself at times disappointed or dissatisfied about the myriad of choices I have. I have heard myself grumble in my mind, “There’s nothing on to watch.”

With that many choices, how can I be unhappy? Can I not simply find something and watch it? Why do I find myself constantly switching, looking for something a little more entertaining?

Graphic designer Chip Kidd provides us with words of wisdom that I believe can give us some insight. “You can be crippled by too many choices, especially if you don’t know what your goals are.”

So, the problem might be that we have too many choices? Couple that with not having something particular in mind before embarking on something? Can too many choices end up being a bad thing?

In the 1960s and 70s I generally listened to my favorite baseball team on the radio. Occasionally they were on the Saturday afternoon game of the week, and I actually got to watch them. That was a treat. The television dial never moved an inch while that baseball game was on. My viewing goal was fixed. I searched for nothing else, even if the game was out of hand early.

Switch to today. Just last night my wife and I were watching a DVD. While this was happening, I also watched a baseball game on my phone. A little later, I switched to my Kindle Fire because it had a larger screen. After our DVD finished, I switched between watching The Big Bang Theory and the baseball game on our high definition television.

I could also listen to the game over the air on my radio, but who listens to radio anymore? By the way, listening to a baseball game is still my favorite way to take in a game, other than in person. But my phone or my Kindle provides a much better sound than my radio. Actually, my Amazon Echo device or Amazon Show device gives even better sound. Or my Echo Dot connected by bluetooth to a Bose speaker gives an equally great sound.

I have too many choices, and our electronic and information revolution, I fear, has made us all impatient listeners and viewers, for I constantly switch from one thing to another. A commercial in a show means seeking something new to watch for 3-5 minutes.

Do we become crippled, as Kidd says, by too many choices? It can be frustrating for sure.

And this is not confined to watching TV or listening to something audibly. There are so many choices in life now for us that it can be mind-boggling. Which one of those 43 vacuum cleaners should I buy? How do I sift through the hundreds of options on 16 vehicles so that I can get the best automobile? Etc., etc.

Life is not going back to a simpler time. I guess we simply need to have a goal in mind what we want to do or buy or obtain.

One thing is for certain. No matter what choice we make, we will usually find something better out there at a later date.

I guess it takes a courageous person today to make choices.

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