The benefits of having choices in life

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Kevin Mangelschots

Having choices, or options, is typically seen as a good thing. And we know that each decision we make has consequences for the present, and future you.

It allows us to control our lives, which will make us feel more confident and will always increase our survival chances. Simultaneously, having no choice due to no options isn’t good either.

But having too many options can lead to choice overload and multiple other potential downsides. Still, I believe that the advantages of having choice far outweigh the negatives.

Benefits of having choices

Illustration with three hands, each depicting a choice. The choices being “no”, “yes”, and “maybe”.

Having options ensures control and increases survival chances

The biggest benefit of having choice is that it gives you options and control over your life. And having choices ensures our survival.

Sure, having options may not directly increase our chance for survival, but it is correlated to more access to resources. And having admittance to more resources obviously heightens our odds of survival.

So one of our most powerful unconscious drives is to continually seek out ways to control all aspects of our lives. We need our daily lives to be predictable in order to stay sane. Our routines and habits are a byproduct of attempting to stay in control, and are absolutely necessary to make sense of the world.

When people stray too far from what’s known and predictable, they tend to become anxious, fearful, and can even go insane.

Important to remember is that having no choice due to no options isn’t a good thing. It decreases our possibility of survival, and our overall contentment in life.

Having choices makes us feel in control and prevents us from feeling overwhelmed

 

Image of a woman who's overwhelmed by fear and is experiencing feelings of anxiety as a result.

We need to feel in control of our existence in order to prevent us from getting overwhelmed. However, trying to desperately control all vectors in life is tiring, and impossible to do as well.

We need to strike a balance between what’s known and predictable to us, and venturing into the unknown in order to grow as people and to learn new things from these novel experiences.

What we know is predictable. And what’s predictable makes us feel safe and in control. What we don’t know, is unpredictable. And what’s unpredictable can make us feel anxious and like we’re not in control.

However, what we need to learn most of all in order to succeed almost always lies in the unknown. That’s exactly why we need to venture there in order to learn new, valuable things.

But, too much of the unknown and too much uncertainty at a given time will cause anxiety, frustration, and even fear if prolonged.

That’s why we need to balance the predictable and the unknown to not get overwhelmed by uncertainty.

The feeling of having a choice makes others more likely to follow and do something for us

Illustration of multicolored clip arts being spurred on by the leader signifying leadership.

If we want other people to do something for us, then it’s smart to give them options. Make them feel like they’re in control. Like they have a choice to make, and that they have a say in the matter.

People are also more likely to follow someone, or an idea, if they feel like they made that particular choice. Think about it this way, even though you can vote for a political party and their specific ideas, that’s still not a guarantee that they will execute all those ideas that they proposed. Even though that’s why you voted for them in the first place.

Yet, because you got the freedom, the choice to vote, and decided to vote for them, you’re more likely to follow and support them all the way.

Different tastes and needs for different people

Not everyone likes living life the same way. Every individual has their own unique personality, and as a consequence, people have different tastes, needs, and desires that we value and that makes life worth living.
 

That’s precisely why having more options is beneficial. Different strokes for different folks. Having access to more options allows us to choose what’s best suited to our own personal needs.

More choice encourages competition among providers

Competition between suppliers typically leads to an improved quality of the product and to lower prices of those goods. Competition between suppliers prevents a monopoly, which will typically inflate the cost of the products in question.
 
Even if people have similar tastes and needs, competition can lead to more choices, which is always beneficial for the consumers.
 
Having no choice leads to poor outcomes for consumers.
 

The downsides of having too many options

Illustration of a clip art walking a line with at the end three different arrows depicting three different choices.

Mentally exhausting

Having too many choices to consider can be mentally draining. There are only so many good choices we can consciously make.

Imagine having to constantly consciously think about every single choice we make. We would get crushed, and there would be very little spare time to do anything else.

We know that thinking, and using our brain in general, is very energy consuming. In the wild, everything used to be about conserving as much energy as possible to use it in dangerous times in order to survive. We needed to be extremely energy efficient.

Fortunately for most of us, there is food in abundance in modern times.

Decision-making errors

Having too many options or having to make too many choices can result in decision-making errors.

Let’s take choice overload as an example. Choice overload is a fancy term for over choice. It is a cognitive impairment that happens in our decision-making process when we have too many options to choose from. And having too many choices means we can’t easily pick between them.

If we aren’t adept and familiar with the options we’re selecting from, then this can lead to picking poorly as well.

Anxiety

Image of various symptoms of anxiety lingering around the keyword, “anxiety”, that's written in red.

Having too many options to consider, or having the feeling that we have too many decisions to make, can give us anxiety. In extreme cases, and if this choosing stress becomes chronic, then this anxiety can turn into fear.

Anxiety is a terrible feeling, and can cause us to make bad decisions based on our negative emotions instead of rational decisions made with logic and common sense.

Regret

It is possible to feel regret after making a decision. But we tend to regret things the most and hardest if we feel like we didn’t take the opportunity to make a choice that might have given us chances to do something new. To learn something novel that could’ve improved our existence.

Of course, regret comes with the territory of making and governing our own decisions. We will make some bad choices that we eventually come to regret if we think and decide for ourselves. No matter how smart, and capable we are.

Takes up valuable time

Having choice can also take up precious time that we could use more effectively on other activities in our lives.

We used to spend a lot of our time just trying to survive in the past. That’s why taking up too much time and energy to constantly think about every decision was not necessarily a good thing for our odds to survive in the past.

Most human beings enjoy their free time, and want to savor special moments with friends, and family. Not to mention that it can be exhausting to be continually thinking about choices.

Too many choices take up valuable resources

All in all, too many choices take up valuable resources such as time and energy that could be put to better use to ensure our continuance.

This means that it’s a mixed bag. Having options can increase our odds for survival, but having too many choices to make can decrease survival chances due to the possible downsides of having multiple choices to consider.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

What are the 3 choices in life?

Image of multiple train railways.

Whatever decision we decide to make, there are 3 choices in life that we can are presented with, regardless of what we decide to pick. Namely, accept it, change it, or leave it.

  • Accept it

    Whenever we make a decision, we must live with the consequences that come along with it. And each choice we make has its positives, but also its negatives.

    Once a decision is made, we must bear the consequences because it’s our own responsibility. We had the option to select, and that means we are accountable for it.

  • Change it

    When you realize that you made the wrong, or a suboptimal decision, then you can attempt to change it in order to set things right.

    When you still have to make a pick, and the deal isn’t quite up to your standards, then you should attempt to alter the properties, so it suits your desires and needs.

  • Leave it

    You can always leave alone the choices that you don’t like, or that don’t suit your personal goals.

    Nobody is forcing you to select something you don’t want to. You are an adult that makes their own pickings. Thus, just like saying no is extremely powerful, so is leaving something that isn’t up to par.

What are some choices we make in life?

Image of the word “example” being written with a blue marker by someone's hand.
 

In truth, there are many choices in life.

These are some examples of everyday choices:

  • What education to pursue
  • Changing jobs
  • Moving out
  • Buying or selling a house
  • Adopting a child or making a baby
  • Prioritizing your career or loved ones
  • Retiring or continuing working
  • What to eat
  • Whether to exercise or not
These are just some possible examples, but many more potential selections must be made in life.
 

What are the most important choices in life?

A person holding a question mark in front of their face.

I would say that the most important choices in life are the small, seemingly insignificant decisions we make every day without putting much thought into them

Things such as brushing our teeth, exercising, and eating healthy or not are vital over a lifespan. The results and consequences can’t be seen immediately to the bare eye, but over the course of a lifetime, they can allow us to become successful if we made continuous good decisions. But they can also cause us to become unsuccessful, unhealthy, and unhappy, if we made poor choices.

Of course, some single events can be life altering as well such as deciding to drive drunk and causing a deadly car accident, choosing to commit suicide, deciding to have a baby with a one-night stand, and so forth.

Nevertheless, we consider those ‘large’ life choices to be essential. As a result, we tend to think them through carefully. Or at least in most cases.

Is it important for people to make their own choices in life?

Yes, it’s critical for people to make their own choices in life because it has many benefits, and is part of being a responsible adult.

We want people to become capable instead of having to rely on others for survival. Furthermore, constantly having to depend on others instead of doing those things ourselves breeds learned helplessness.

Why is it important for people to make their own decisions in life?

It’s important for people to make their own decisions in life since it promotes accountability in addition to giving a sense of control over our own existence.

It turns you into an independent, responsible human being who’s capable of making choices on their own, by applying critical thinking skills.

Furthermore, it also means you’re not reliant on other people’s judgment to make sure it’s the right selection or not.

Making your own decisions in life means you will make some wrong/bad ones too. But this failure is critical to learn new things.

Final note

Lessons Learned statement on paper note pad. Office desk with electronic devices and computer, wood table from above, concept image for blog title or header image. Aged vintage color look.

Having no choice due to no or limited options is a bad position to be in.

Meanwhile, the benefits of having choices are plentiful. This means that having options should typically be seen as a good thing.

You should aim to get yourself in a position of power and control, where you hold the cards. The cards in this instance being having access to multiple choices.

Ultimately, we want to be in control of our own lives. And to do that, we need to know that we have the capacity of multiple options at our disposal.

Whatever your current position is in life, be it at work, in your personal life, or in your social circle, try to improve the amount of choices you have to consider. It’ll lead to more opportunities, and an overall better quality of life.

Call to action

“Take action” written with white chalk on a blackboard.

Having too many options is rarely the case for most people. And that’s exactly why having choice is great.

Whatever you do, try to avoid having no choice due to having no opportunities.

Simultaneously, maximize your amount of alternatives by putting yourself in a position of control, and consequently, power over your own life.

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