Choice Paralysis

The college student smart enough to succeed at several majors. The retiree who could do a hundred things with the next thirty years of his life. The businessman with a zillion 401K options. Me standing before fifty varieties of spaghetti sauce at the grocery store. The woman at a conference hearing appeals from a dozen non-profits and just causes.

Choice paralysis.

Spaghetti Sauce choices

Psychologist Barry Schwartz coined the term. He argues that more choices make us less likely to take action, and to be less satisfied with any decision we may eventually make.

I have a number of friends who organize conferences and events. I’m glad they feel comfortable expressing their frustrations to me.

Why not have multiple child sponsorship organizations at our conference, and also promote clean water and people who stop sex trafficking and vocational training programs and adoption and orphan care and feeding programs and disaster relief and the environment and refugees and….

I’ve been so inspired by these friends – their challenge to the status quo. I’ve championed their idealism and cheered them on as they’ve experimented in recent years with welcoming dozens of non-profits to their events instead of just one.

I agree, after all, that God isn’t just working through one organization or one kind of organization. The world needs more help than any one ministry can provide. And what about unity? We’re all supposed to be on the same team right? Giving one organization a monopoly on an event doesn’t exactly send that message sometimes. Amen. A thousand times, Amen.

But as the choices have multiplied. So has indecision. It turns out that making space for everyone hasn’t been decidedly good for anyone.

Conference organizers get complaints from attendees who feel “spammed.” The attendees, fatigued and overwhelmed, choose not to choose or doubt the choice they eventually make. And the organizations setting up booths and making appeals don’t get the kind of return on investment that their accountants and donors should require them to.

May I propose a new approach? With fear and trembling, I will tomorrow. Not a final answer but what I hope will be the start of a helpful conversation.

Until then, what are your thoughts on all this?

photo credit: Joe Wilcox via photopin cc