Decision Paralysis
everything is a choice

Decision paralysis

And the Perils of Too Much Choice

December 14, 2016

We all want to be free. Free to make our own choices in life. To live our lives the way we see fit. To be in charge of our own decision making. To do what we want, when we want, within the law and without hurting others hopefully. To binge watch episodes of Community. In our prom dresses. Eating donuts and drinking champagne. On a Tuesday afternoon. You know, should we so choose.

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Theoretically it’s the ideal scenario. Well, not necessarily the binge watching and eating, but the freedom. Freedom is our right, am I right? But sometimes freedom is not all it’s cracked up to be. Too much of a good thing and all.

Location Independence

If you’ve skulked around the blog, you’d already know that freedom is a core value of mine. This is why my bf and I have been working on setting up a mobile work scenario.

It sounds like we drive around working out of an ice-cream van, doesn’t it? Maybe giving haircuts to people in the neighbourhood from our van. Every haircut gets a free soft serve choc dip. We’d call it Mr. Snippy and our logo would be an animated ice-cream cone with a 50s hair style ice-cream do… but I digress.

Although we don’t do that, we could if we wanted to. That’s the beauty of it. We love to travel and decided 6 years ago that we didn’t want to be tied down or locked in to any particular place with a job or employer. That’s why we want freedom of movement. That’s why we want location independence.

There are many ways to achieve this of course and with the internet breaking down geographical boundaries, it’s more feasible than ever to work for businesses in separate locations than where you live and especially to have customers or clients from the other side of the world.

I know a few people whose employers are states, counties and countries away and they still do their work and communicate just as easily as if they were in the office next door.

We however, have decided to go the whole hog and work for ourselves. Minus the ice-cream van. We just want full control, creative or otherwise, and to have options.

Having your own business also gives you freedom of time to work the hours and days you want, and to some extent, freedom of earnings. There is no glass ceiling when you work for yourself. It’s been a long and turbulent road so far, but we still believe in what we set out to do and work hard at it every day.

The Decision

When you are location-independent, the world is your oyster. Sure there are still visa issues to have to deal with. There is unfortunately no world citizen passport as of yet, or we’d be all over that!

So although we have legal restrictions on how long we can stay in particular countries at a time, there are no other real restrictions on countries for us. Not the ones we would want to visit anyway. War-torn dictatorships? Pass.

So lately we’ve been mulling over where in the world we would want to live and whether we could deal with the scenario of having to move every 3-6 months depending on location and visa restrictions. Lee is from the UK, I’m from Australia.

He is in the process of getting his citizenship for Australia which would allow him to be there indefinitely, but I can only be in the UK for 6 months at a time. I could go and start my citizenship process for the UK, but that would take another 5 years or so.

While it is good to have backup countries where we can both be in legally together, we had hoped more on moving further afield from our resident/comfort zones, while still staying together.

When you have enough money coming in regularly to support you or you can work wherever you are and make that money when you need it, you don’t have to worry so much about the cost of flights and accommodation and hence can work around any visa restrictions while still enjoying yourself. This is the dream.

It may not be a long-term setup. Maybe we will decide at some point that we are sick of having to constantly move around and would like to put down roots somewhere. At least we will be free to make that decision when our wants change. But for now, the big overarching decision for us is: Where in the world should we live?

The Disillusionment of Choice

While it is great that we have the options and the freedom to be in this situation, having so much choice can be paralysing. I’m the kind of girl who has trouble making a food decision when I go out to eat.

Do I try something new, or stick to tried and true? Will I be missing out on something better if I choose this or will somewhere else have better options? Will it be worth it? Should I choose the healthy option or just something that tastes good? Will it be filling enough? How hungry am I? Will I want something else later? What if I make the wrong choice? And this is just lunch.

My crazy, introverted, perfectionist mind paralyses me at the simplest of scenarios, so making this huge life-altering decision is understandably crippling. Even when you’ve made a decision you’re often left with decider’s remorse.

You can’t help but think, what if…? Hypothetically what if I had made a different decision? Would I have been better off? Make no decision, and you’re not going anywhere. Literally and figuratively. But also literally.

If I’ve learnt anything from watching Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, it’s that when you have a million things on the menu, you’re business is going to fail. You’re either trying to please everyone, which is a ludicrous endeavour or you’re trying to prove to everyone what you’re capable of and your ego is calling the shots.

Either way, people don’t want that much choice and you can’t spread yourself so thin. Narrow down your menu to a few good, well-tested dishes and perfect those options. This is good advice for selling products or services online too FYI.

You see those sites that sell everything under the sun; from outdoor lights to toothbrush holders; no overarching theme or brand. Unless you’re a big player like Amazon, you’ll never do that well. I’ll talk more about the importance of niching down in a future article, but it’s poor business strategy to be an online 5 & dime.

So, to this end, we’ve narrowed our options down from 195 countries to a handful, which involved some alcohol, a blindfold, a bit of eeney-meeny and some coin flips of fate, you know, technical processes of elimination, but there is still an overwhelming pressure to make the decision. 

Make no decision, and you're not going anywhere. Literally and figuratively. But also literally.

Limitations are Good

What I’ve come to believe is that maybe the benefits of freedom is not in how many options you have, but in making a decision and investing wholeheartedly in it, as Mark Manson eloquently suggests in The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life. You either have surface level breadth experiences of many things or you narrow down your scope and enjoy the full-depth experience of a few things that mean more to you.

To apply it to our menu options and business services or products, you narrow down to a set few well researched options and perfect them. For our where-to-live debacle, instead of randomly going from place to place and not really feeling like we’re living anywhere, maybe we settle on a couple of places, keep revisiting them and make those our honorary homes.

The Experiment

There is a well-known psychological experiment on choice and decision-making where nine art posters of paintings by famous artists, were shown to a group of students. They were to rank the posters in order of their preference and then could take home one of the posters, out of a choice of two.

One group were given the option of changing their choice for up to a month, the other group were told that their first decision was final and that they could not change their mind. At the end, they were asked to rank them again, in order of preference and to answer a questionnaire.

The experiment concluded that while the group who had the choice to change were more satisfied initially, they were least satisfied with their final decision and the group that could not change their choice, were least satisfied to not be able to change their mind, but more satisfied with their final decision.

We all think we want to have more choice. It would seem that, to have more options gives us a feeling of freedom and fairness, but in reality, that’s an illusion. It’s only when we minimise our choices and make a final decision, that we feel true satisfaction from the result.

Sometimes having freedom is overwhelming, daunting and paralysing. Over time, this could lead to unhappiness, anxiety and depression. So while it’s great to initially have options, it’s not until you’ve made a decision and taken some action that you can appreciate the freedom of your choice.

Create restrictions and limitations for yourself. Formulate criteria to filter your choice down. Whittle away at the options. Make a decision. Commit to that decision. That’s when you’ll find the freedom and happiness you’ve been longing for. Decision Decision Paralysis

Your resident Moxie blogger and location independent lifestyle guru is Aussie girl, Megan. She has lived in 9 different cities in 7 different countries (so far), and wants to see and experience as much of this amazing world, as she can. Her boyfriend, partner in crime and travel companion of 10 years, is from England. Together they travel the world like a creative inspiring duo, breaking the rules of society to live their best freedom-loving lives.

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