My Love-Hate Relationship with Choice

Choice is prevalent everywhere in America.  How does one decide what to read and what not to read; what not to watch and watch not to; or which job to take and which not to? The huge amount of choice available in our society is truly a gift and a curse.

As a person who has studied economics this abundance of choice is especially highlighted in my brain.  A basic concept taught in all economics courses is opportunity cost: everything you do has a cost, in that when you , let’s say, go to the gym you are not able to spend time with your family.  So, whenever you are doing one thing you are unable to do another and that’s a cost.  Wikipedia puts it this way: “opportunity cost  is the value of the next best alternative forgone as the result of making a decision.”

So what’s the point you say?  Well I think about most things this way.  Example I might think about reading a book.  Then I think, wait, is this the best use of my time, should I do something else that has a higher value and lower opportunity cost?  Pretty annoying huh (keep this in mind if you are thinking about majoring in economics, this could happen to you to).  And because there are so many choices of activities out there I spend way too much time debating whether I should do this or that.

Because I think about this concept a lot I always want to be doing the highest value thing I can.  This dilemma manifests most often with books, articles and anything that can be read.  I do not want to spend my scarce time reading not the best thing ever written.  I want to be reading the most interesting and useful piece of information, story, idea, concept or whatever whenever I decide to read at all.

Which brings me back to choice.  I have a lot of interests and with a lot of interests comes a lot of choices among them.  The abundance of choice can then lead to inaction.  I have a list of books that I want to read that is so long that when I’m reading an actual book I think about all the other books I’m not reading.  I read book reviews on Amazon instead of reading a book, just to make sure what I’m reading really is great.  Annoying, I know!  I sometimes think I have so kind form of ADD or obsessive compulsive disorder, I don’t know.

But I think the solution isn’t to limit my choices.  Instead of asking myself, am I doing the most beneficial thing I can do at this moment, I should continue to explore.  Taking a job that ends up being not fulfilling, or reading a bad article, or watching a boring movie, just means that when the job is great, the book griping, the movie hilarious, it will that much more enjoyable and meaningful.


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