Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The value of limits

We talk a lot about the value of having choices. I consider myself very lucky to live in a society where I have an abundance of choices available to me. I can choose my religion, my political party, my career, my spouse. Those choices are priceless and I'm of the belief they are inalienable and should belong to all people.

In addition to these fundamental choices about my life, I can choose what clothes to wear and where to buy them. I can choose how to do my hair and what color I want it to be. I can even choose the color of my eyes if I want to spend extra money on colored contact lenses. I can choose to have a pet or three, I can pick where I want to go on vacation subject to my budget and I decorate my house as I choose. When I go to the supermarket I have dozens of cereals, types of bread, juice, meat, tea, fruit and cookies - all at my disposal. Anything I want, I just have to choose it.

So why is it sometimes better to have fewer choices?

One of the pitfalls of having too many choices is [and I'm not looking a gift horse in the mouth, mind you] that it can take too long to make a decision and you have all the more time and ability to second guess yourself. Out of 200 breakfast cereals, how do you know which one is the best? You can try them all, but most of them you won't like. You can choose based on calorie or fiber content, or the color of the box. You can choose by price and availability, or you can spend all day comparing nutritional value until you make the most informed and intelligent choice you can make. Same thing with car insurance, or bicycle tires. Too many things today require a PhD of some sort in order to choose them properly.

One thing I learned during my earliest child-rearing years was that too many choices can be a bad thing. I learned not to show my kids the clothes closet and say, "What do you want to wear?" The answer could take all day. I discovered picking two outfits out and giving my son especially a choice of one or the other worked best. He didn't have to agonize over his decision. Too much freedom makes toddlers insecure. They need limits.

So do we all sometimes. That's why when I made the decision to have the house painted I said to my painter [K's husband, btw] Don't give me too many choices for paint colors. I don't want to go crazy pouring over 4000 pages of paint swatches trying to find the precise shade. He laughed and he agreed and he brought me a selection of about 20 colors - which was tough enough to work with, but I managed.

As a group, DH and the kids and I reached a consensus rather quickly and decided on the following:

Hillside Green for the main color

And Georgian Brick for the doors.

Not too hard a decision. It's nice to have something in life be relatively easy - made so by the lack of choice rather than the abundance of it.

Seems odd when you think about it, but I think it was definitely the right choice for me.


Jen said...

You're so right!

A couple of years ago I was selling my house. I had the entire interior painted white (because that's what all the "sell your house in three days flat" shows suggested. There are three gazillion shades of white paint available! The painter brought me half a dozen samples. I didn't even look at them, I just said, "you pick one". I figured I wasn't going to be living in the house, so I didn't care. Well that, and the fact I fail the color blindness test at the eye doctor.

I like the shades you picked!

Bernadette Gardner and Jennifer Colgan said...

Oh, I've been through the whole eggshell vs. ecru vs. bright white vs. winter white debate too. It's awful.

The worst thing about having too many choices is there will always be someone eager to tell you why you made the wrong one.

Jen said...

ROFL -- This is too true! == The worst thing about having too many choices is there will always be someone eager to tell you why you made the wrong one.

ヒットエンドぴゅっ! said...