Choices and Contentment

My wife and I frequently argue over which grocery store is better. I like Tom Thumb, she likes Kroger. I like Central Market, she likes Whole Foods. Clearly, I’m 2-0, but she’ll come around.

I drove by seven different types of grocery stores on the way home from work yesterday, before I even got to the highway. Not seven grocery stores, seven different types of stores. Seven.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my ability to choose. My freedom to choose is an amazing privilege for which I am extremely grateful. Choice is at the center of freedom, but I wonder if the amount of choice we are given has gone too far at times.

Starting in 2000, a few guys who study things got together and studied the cost of choice. As our choices for everything from grocery stores to types of jeans kept growing, they asked if all that choice was really making people any happier.

They found it wasn’t. One guy even wrote a book and has a TED talk on it.

Nothing may be more Western in thought or more intrinsically American than our right to choose. We like the facade of control choices give, but I wonder if there is a greater cost in the sheer number of choices we are given everyday.

We live in a choice-driven culture and assume more choices makes for a better life because we have more control. We think more choices leads to more creativity and happiness, but I’m not so sure that’s always the outcome (click on the links in the paragraph to read more on why).

I’ve been thinking about how too much choice makes us critiques rather than creatives. More choices lead to more regret and less presence in the moment to build a better future. We need more creatives. In the end, some choices are great, but too many might lead to discontentment.

Sure, this conversation affects a church flooded with consumerism and driven by choice, but I think it also shapes how we run our families, choose our friends and how we interact within a world filled with choices.

Maybe less is more, unless it’s Tom Thumb or Central Market. Those choices are always good.

- Charlie