A Simple Approach to Living With Less

Too Many Choices Stress Us Out

Stressed Girl

Do you ever feel torn between two choices? Sometimes we’re worried that we might make a bad choice instead of a good one. Other times we struggle to choose between a good choice a better choice.

The process of choosing is often more stressful that dealing with the outcome.

I watched an interesting interview between Michael Hyatt and Seth Godin the other day. If you have 11 minutes to spare, you should watch it (especially if you’re a writer).

It really got me thinking about how we get ourselves into stressful situations. Seth said:

Stress is what happens when you want to do two things at the same time.

That lead to some really cool “ah-ha” moments for me:

That explains why we get stressed out when we want to declutter our house BUT we still find ourselves wanting to hang onto sentimental items and other items “just in case” we need them.

That explains why I get stressed out with how I look and I want to minimize my butt BUT I don’t want to give up the things I enjoy eating so much.

That explains why it’s more stressful to decide what to wear when you have a crammed closet BUT we keep extra clothes on hand so we don’t run out of choices.

We can’t always avoid situations where we are forced to make choices. However, if we can understand this inner conflict, we can understand where the stress is coming from and eliminate it whenever possible.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section.

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Article originally published on 07/07/2011

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  1. This is very true. Have you ever gone to the grocery store to look for an item and been presented with dozens of brands and varieties of the item, unsure which one to pick? Then when you go somewhere that has only two of the item, it’s much easier to pick, right? Yep.

    • Faith Janes says

      Yes, great example. Those mega stores are overwhelming! I usually just go for the cheapest one. I am glad the price tags tell you the cost per ounce/unit now. Growing up my parents made us do the math on each item to determine which one was actually cheaper.

  2. I know what you mean! It’s impossible to get anything done when I feel like I’m pulled in a million directions. I’ve heard the idea that stress can be caused by “choice overload,” but it didn’t really click until I read this. When my mind wants me to go in two different directions it always seems easier just not to choose, but having that inevitable choice (sometimes not choosing in itself is a choice) hanging over my head causes unnecessary stress. Decisiveness is a virtue in cases like these.

    • Faith Janes says

      “Choice overload” hits me a lot. It happens a lot when I’m staring at a huge To Do list too. You’re so right that it can be easier to just not choose. When it’s impossible to eliminate the choices, I follow my dad’s doctor advice and go into “Triage Mode.” This helps me to focus on the most critical needs first. When all else fails, I’ll get my husband’s advice on what’s most important. But when I can avoid having too many choices in front of me, I definitely prefer going that route.

      Thanks for commenting and retweeting, Joel.

  3. My boyfriend is going out of town for a week and I have the house all to myself. I am FINALLY going to declutter and get some major projects. I think I can approach them one task at a time. Since he is a minimalist hopefully he will come home and be very proud. 🙂

    • Faith Janes says

      Oh that sounds great! That will be such a great feeling and fun surprise showing off all your hard work. Don’t forget before and after pictures!

  4. Spot on Faith. Without a doubt the decluttering doesn’t take the time the decision making does. Very often with myself I delay things not because of the physical act but I cannot take the mental strain that it will place upon me. A simple thing like going through the kids toys, can be so mentally time consuming and draining as you process everything! That’s why it is so much easier to declutter for someone else. perhaps we should set up a group whereby we all do each others? Definitely going to watch the video – after I have tracked down Hugh Grant kicking butt on a BBC political programme last night that I missed!

    • Faith Janes says

      Exactly! The decision making is so mentally tiring. I also love the idea of decluttering for each other. It is SO much easier being objective with someone else’s junk. How awesome would that be to hand over the keys to your house and say “Here ya go. Declutter me.” and then walk back in with everything cleared out?! That would be awesome! 🙂

  5. Our society has set us up for that overwhelmedness. And typically, we are actually presented with more than 2 options, and we worry that we are making the right decision, the best decision. As far as grocery shopping goes, I have been shopping at smaller grocery stores and farmers markets. I love Aldis and Trader Joes because you can walk the whole store in 30 minutes or less!
    Gonna watch video now, love Seth and Michael!
    When depression comes knocking at your door


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