Making Choices Easier

You may have heard about the jam studies done by Sheena Iyengar in the late 1990s. In the study she offered samples of jam to shoppers in a gourmet grocery store. Some of the time shoppers were offered six jams to sample, and other times twenty four jams. Although more people were drawn to the samples when 24 were offered, only 3% of those people bought jam. Of the shoppers who were only offered six, 30% bought jam.

Sometimes having too much choice can be overwhelming. Have you ever struggled to decide what to eat in a restaurant with a huge menu? Eliminating choice isn’t the answer. But creating your own guidelines is. In case of the menu, you might start by saying to yourself, “I don’t eat red meat, I already had a salad today, and I don’t want to spend more than $20.” This way you’ve honed your choices to those that fit the categories you’ve determined. How about deciding which colleges to apply to? There are over 4,000 in the United States! The first question probably shouldn’t be, “which schools?” but should be “what do I want in a school?” If you can rule out schools that don’t fit your criteria (size, distance, cost, majors offered) you make the choice easier.

Next time you’re wrestling with a choice, see if you can establish criteria to rule options in or out. Not only will it make your choice easier, but you’ll also stay true to what matters to you.

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