Why We Don’t Actually Like Choices

The other night I had a dream.

I found myself as a 20-year-old on a bus with a carefully-selected number of other kids my age. Think Enders Game. We were heading to Cape Canaveral for the big launch into space, ready to embark on a 5-year mission (although I remember feeling skeptical that we would ever return). We were going to visit new worlds, and do things that nobody else had ever done. Mars was stop #1, but we were going far beyond.

During the dream, I knew that it wasn’t too late to leave the mission and to get off before the launch, and for most of the dream I wrestled with the decision.

On the one hand, I’d be experiencing incredible things, gathering fame, and interacting with the best minds out there. I’d be building friendships with my shipmates and living a life that most kids longed for.

On the other hand, I’d be missing out on any chance of relative normalcy during the best years of my life. I’d be risking death, and I realized that I’d be missing my family and friends during important years.

We arrived at the launch center in Florida and I found myself walking down a hallway towards the ship, in more angst and despair than ever. The decision I made to board the ship or not would change everything. I approached the ship door and…

I woke up. In sheer relief. The relief wasn’t because the dream was a nightmare and I had escaped something terrible. On the contrary, I should have been completely upset that my brain woke me up before experiencing the launch and the adventures. The relief came not because the dream wasn’t real, but because the choice that I was faced with wasn’t real.

Avoiding ChoiceThey call the 20s the decade of decision. The tiny track-switches we pull in these few years determine our career, our spouse, our interests, where we’ll live, what we’ll spend our time doing, whether and when we’ll have kids, etc. Sometimes, the choices become completely overwhelming. Because when you make the wrong choice you have nobody to blame but yourself. No wonder so many people love In ‘N Out — there are only two things on the menu! No wonder so many people find themselves in the same career, religion, marital situation, lifestyle as their parents — no choices necessary!

The relief of having choices made for us is very real. Yes, we always claim that we want the freedom to chose, to shape our destiny, to make our path…but do we?

  1. Michael Andersen
    | Reply

    It is hard for a restaurant to be good at everything. Typically they only have one or two things that they are good at making. I choose the restaurant by choosing what food I want, so I never walk into a restaurant (except for the first time or two) wondering what I am going to get.

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