One of the central themes of Authentic Living is consumerism. In this post I will deal specifically with choice.
You may be wondering how choice is a problem. Surely having the ‘luxury’ of choice is a positive thing, and it is, but like most things – it’s best in moderation.
The problem today is that we have too much choice, just take a look at our shopping outlets, only a couple of generations back our relatives were doing all their grocery shopping on one street, probably between only four or five outlets; Butcher, Baker, Fishmonger, Greengrocers… and they could probably do the rest of their shopping on that street too.
Now look at our grocery outlets. Most people now shop in ‘Super’ markets, and, not content with just being super, they are also ‘Extra’.
In the largest stores you can literally buy anything. And everything. CD players next to scourers next to packet noodles next to children’s clothes and so on…..
Consumerism is a problem for Authentic Living as it drives us to earn more money to pay for more ‘stuff’, mostly stuff that you do not need and often that you do not really want (intoducing ebay – auction site for millions of unwanted items).
We’ve all done it , bought something on a whim, maybe it was a ‘bargain’ or it had gimmicky advertising, or it was ‘in fashion‘ (for about ten minutes). Stop for a moment and think about who drives fashion, who decides what is ‘fashionable’, and for how long…..does it feel that fashions/trends move a lot quicker now? Hmm why is that?
Ever heard anyone saying ‘I’m so indecisive’, ‘I can never make up my mind’, the problem here is too much choice, they are worried about making the wrong decision and missing out. I bet if you were to give someone only two alternatives they would find it much easier – I thought I’d test this theory.
Scenario; Person A is coming to visit soon. She is a self-confessed indecisive person.
Me: Hi, when you come up on Monday, what would you like for tea? You can choose anything you want and I will make it.
Person A: Oooohh…hmmmm, I don’t know (panic in her voice) mmmm………uhhhhh……..can you leave it with me? (It was just a quick question?)
Me: Ok, what if I said I only had Lasagne or Steak?
Person A: mmm Steak please.
That was a real conversation. Faced with too many possibilities/choices she hesitated, panicked even. She wanted to choose the best possible meal, she couldn’t choose any. However, faced with two options the decision was made in seconds, she was comfortable with this. A quick comparison could be made because there was no fear of missing out on something better.
Less choice led to more happiness not less. This is probably a surprise to most people.
The same principle applies to children, that is why we only give them two choices or a maximum of three, we don’t want them to be spoilt for choice.
Also as a result of having too much choice, we purchase more than we need. During the confusion of too many choices we can’t make up our minds, ‘I can’t decide’, ‘I’ll just take both’, sound familiar? Or have you ever done your food shopping and found that you have bought more than you can eat? or lots of products but nothing that makes an actual meal? Too much choice
The only solution is to limit our choices ourselves – you could argue that this is choice within itself, and it is, but what alternative do we have in a world of ever increasing choice and variety.
Less choice will make you happier and more content in the long run.
Of course less money = less choice, and I will discuss that further in Part 3
For now though just remember to be a person – your own person, and not merely just a consumer. You are who you are, your are not what you own.
Until next time….Have fun