Less Choice. Better Outcome.

Less Choice. Better Outcome.

Making choices can suck. When there are a thousand things to think about, it gets overwhelming. It’s called overchoice and refers to the fact that, in the face of loads of options, we tend to shut down or struggle to decide at all.

Decide to redecorate a bathroom and there are 50,000 types of flooring.
Want a bottle of wine for a Friday night? Enjoy three walls full of options.
Feel to go on a date? Every single person in a 50KM radius is in your phone.

As technology has advanced, ease has… well… never been easier.

It’s easy to get caught in the slipstream of society and find yourself hurtling in directions that you never really chose to take. 

Sweet F All


A landmark study from the year 2000 compared the purchases of jams when supermarket customers were faced with a sampling table of 24 jams, and a sampling table of only six.

The more varied stall saw more people stop to try the jam but converted far fewer people into sales. Only 3% of those who visited the more varied stall bought. While 30% of those who visited the more restricted stall ended up purchasing.

On one hand, it’s an insight into getting people to spend more money. On the other, it’s an understanding that by offering ourselves fewer choices, we encourage ourselves to actually make a damn decision.

In reverse, but to the same point, another study looked at over a million peoples’ data comparing enrolment in pension plans. On the two drastic ends: when people were offered just two funds, compared to 59, the participation rate was about 10% lower. A touch more consequential than trying a new jam.

Multiplication Frustration


As we labour over our choices, the negatives pile up in our minds and the cost of choosing rather than doing nothing can become overwhelming. The analysis paralysis of overthinking has killed a million careers of luminaries we never got the chance to know. 

That’s why you end up watching The Office on Netflix for the 96th time rather than trying one of the thousand shows you haven’t seen yet. You like the way The Office makes you feel. The alternative? Could be a waste of time.

“Overwhelming choice causes paralysis rather than liberation.” - Barry Schwartz

Making choices can be mentally taxing. This effort is understood as ego depletion and refers to the mental impairment we feel when we’re overwhelmed by choice. The frenzied pace many of us force ourselves into in modernity does little to help our ability to select properly. Take this study of judges and how their rulings varied wildly after a short break.

This tendency to be harsher remained true over 1100 cases, over 10 months irrespective of the severity of the crime. Perhaps Snickers was onto something.

 You’re Not You When You’re Hungry


Talking of food, it’s clear from everyday examples that answering “wherever,” when your mate asks for a food location, is super unhelpful. Asking, “Italian or Chinese?” will save you a dozen texts and a half-hour of frustration.

The more we have to choose from, the more we tend to end up less satisfied than if we had fewer offerings. Because if it isn’t perfect, then we’re left presuming that one of our non-choices was a better option. We fluffed it, chose poorly and now we’ve wasted our money or time.

Ultimately, the point of this email is to try to flag that more isn’t always more. Just because the world is trying to force endless tides of consumption in your face doesn’t mean you have to acquiesce. 

As always, The Simpsons predicted the future back in 1994 with Monstromart and its accompanying slogan.

Capitalism can be a bastard. But ultimately, we have to take ownership of our situation and pair back the infinite for our own wellbeing.

Steve Jobs famously wore the same outfit every day, even though he had more money than anyone could dare to require. Whilst a uniform wardrobe is extreme, it highlights the capacity for individuals to choose where they place their choice and focus rather than spreading it thinly across everything all the time.

The hyper-individualism of 2024 is a title that brings with it the possible liberation of choosing exactly how you want to live, instead of being funnelled into decisions or paralyses of the division of others.

We can self-limit our choices. Is it hard? Yes. 

Will it lead to better, and actual, decisions? Also yes.

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