THE STRAIGHT UP
The Joy of Missing Out Give Yourself the Freedom From Choice
There’s no question that we enjoy very important freedoms in this country. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press are crucial foundations for a free society. However, in the United States, we have equated freedom with choice. As a result, we have this idea that more choice is always better. While there’s no doubt that having no choices is terrible, having unlimited choices isn’t automatically better. In fact, there’s a lot of research that shows having too many choices can make us miserable and unproductive. A few years ago, I discussed psychologist Dr. Sheena Iyengar and her research into the “paradox of choice.” After setting up a jam display at a market, Dr. Iyengar found people were less likely to make a purchase when they were presented with more options. The same held true when she looked into employers and 401(k) options. When we’re faced with a lot of choices, our brains feel pressured to pick the “best” thing instead of being happy we found something “I THINK IT’S IMPORTANT TO FREE OURSELVES FROM THE BURDEN OF MAKING THE ‘RIGHT’ CHOICE.”
suited for us.We get so worried that we’ll pick the wrong thing and regret our decision that we end up being far less productive. Recently, I was reading an article about this very topic that pointed out if you search “toilet bowl brush,” you’ll get over 1,000 results!With the pressure to make the right choice, many people end up going down the rabbit hole, reading the reviews and doing research for hours, wasting time and energy trying to make the “right” choice about a toilet bowl brush! It’s not that I think we should have fewer choices — though, do we really need over 1,000 different toilet bowl brushes? I think it’s important for us to free ourselves from the burden of making the “right” choice. Life will always be full of options: There are endless foods to eat, places to visit, books to read, and career paths to take. We can never do it all. Rather than get twisted up by the fear of what we’re missing out on, why not instead take joy in it? Recently, I visited my friend Joanna in Australia. I had a wonderful trip and was so happy to spend time with my friend, but when I got home, I looked at my husband and said, “You know, I don’t think I’m that interested in travel anymore.” For a moment after the words left my mouth, I felt guilty. What kind of human was I if I don’t want to travel the world, see new sights, or meet new people? But the truth is I’mmuch happier being my hobbit self, staying home, cooking with my
husband, taking Buster for walks, and not having adventures of any kind. I might miss out on a lot of things by staying home, but this is what brings me the most joy in life. If looking for new adventures and going out of your way to try new things every day is what makes you happy, then go for it! The world is your oyster. But if you feel like you have to try these new choices, or if you're afraid of what you’ll miss out if you don’t grab onto that big new thing, then I challenge you to give yourself permission to say no. “No, I don’t need to find the coolest new restaurant, because my old favorite restaurant makes me happy” or “No, I don’t need to pick the right toilet bowl brush. The first result will get the job done just fine.” If you know what makes you happy in life, say yes to that, and take joy in missing out on everything else.
–Dr. Leslie Pitner
Smile big. Smile often. • 803-781-5225www.drpitner.com
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