“He who the GODS want to destroy, they give many options”. -African Proverb
There is an African Proverb that says: “He who the GODS want to destroy, they give many options”. We live in a world where we are swamped with endless opportunities, we are bombarded with news, social media reels, stories, entertainment, notifications, advertisement, and lots of great content on the internet. The average person is said to encounter on average between 6,000 to 10,000 ads every day. We are long on options but short on time.
The Paradox of Choice is the phenomenon that too many choices often cause us more stress, and less satisfaction when making a decision. Before making a decision, we analyze (analysis paralysis), hedge our bets, keep our options open, and eventually do not even make any decision because of the fear of better options.
FOBO, or Fear of a Better Option, is the insidious twin of FOMO. It keeps your from committing to any choice in case another, more optimal opportunity comes along. Thus, you find yourself stretching out the decision making processes (for decisions both big or small) for as long as possible. Then, at the very last minute, you pick whatever works best for you, without considering the effects your behavior has on those who are impacted by your indecision.
In his book, Fear of Missing Out: Practical Decision-Making in a World of Overwhelming Choice, Patrick McGinnis writes:
FOBO \ ˈfō-(ˌ)bō \ Noun. Informal
1. An anxiety-driven urge to hold out for something better based on the perception that a more favorable alternative or choice might exist.
2. A compulsion to preserve option value that delays decision-making or postpones it indefinitely.
3. Behavior that turns you into an entitled a**hole.
FOBO, or Fear of a Better Option, is the anxiety that something better will come along, which makes it undesirable to commit to existing choices when making a decision. It’s an affliction of abundance that drives you to keep all of your options open and to hedge your bets. As a result, you live in a world of maybes, stringing yourself and others along. Rather than assessing your options, choosing one, and moving on with your day, you delay the inevitable. It’s not unlike hitting the snooze button on your alarm clock only to pull the covers over your head and fall back asleep.
“We make more than 35,000 decisions a day. Some impulsive, some logical, and some complex and paralyzing. Compounded with our “always-on” society, the pressures and stresses wrought by endless access to yet another option or possibility can create an endless loop of indecision and unease.”
As regards the Fear of Better Options, Mcguiness offers some tips for overcoming FOBO when making high-stakes decisions:
- KEEP AN OPEN MIND: Don’t fall in love with any of the possible outcomes before you’ve even gotten started. If you do, you might struggle to eliminate alternatives from your opportunity set.
- KNOW WHAT MATTERS: Determine what are you trying to achieve and what you consider an acceptable outcome. List your criteria and the qualities associated with that outcome.
- RELY ON FACTS, NOT EMOTIONS: Compile all of the information you’ll need before making a decision.
- GATHER DATA FROM MULTIPLE SOURCES: Don’t make a decision in a vacuum. Draw on the people around you—and perhaps those beyond your immediate circle—to get advice.
- REMEMBER, YOU ARE CHOOSING THE BEST, NOT CUTTING THE WORST: Once you determine that all of your options are acceptable, your decision-making process is grounded in settling on the best option among the group. Eliminating options and mourning foregone opportunities is very difficult for people with FOBO; therefore, you should always orient your decision toward reinforcing the conviction that you are choosing wisely.
“Men must be decided on what they will not do, and then they are able to act with vigor in what they ought to do.”—MENCIUS
In his book The Paradox of Choice – Why More Is Less, American psychologist Barry Schwartz describes the different types of people when it comes to options, you are either a chooser, picker, maximizer or satisficers. He writes:
A chooser is someone who thinks actively about the possibilities before making a decision. A chooser reflects on what’s important to him or her in life, what’s important about this particular decision, and what the short-and long-range consequences of the decision may be. A chooser makes decisions in a way that reflects awareness of what a given choice means about him or her as a person.
A picker does none of these things. With a world of choices rushing by like a music video, all a picker can do is grab this or that and hope for the best. Obviously, this is not such a big deal when what’s being picked is breakfast cereals. But decisions don’t always come at us with signs indicating their relative importance prominently attached. Unfortunately, the proliferation of choice in our lives robs us of the opportunity to decide for ourselves just how important any given decision is.
Choosing wisely begins with developing a clear understanding of your goals. And the first choice you must make is between the goal of choosing the absolute best and the goal of choosing something that is good enough. If you seek and accept only the best, you are a maximizer.
Maximizers need to be assured that every purchase or decision was the best that could be made. Yet how can anyone truly know that any given option is absolutely the best possible? The only way to know is to check out all the alternatives. A maximizer can’t be certain that she has found the best sweater unless she’s looked at all the sweaters. She can’t know that she is getting the best price unless she’s checked out all the prices. As a decision strategy, maximizing creates a daunting task, which becomes all the more daunting as the number of options increases.
The alternative to maximizing is to be a satisficer. To satisfice is to settle for something that is good enough and not worry about the possibility that there might be something better. A satisficer has criteria and standards. She searches until she finds an item that meets those standards, and at that point, she stops. As soon as she finds a sweater that meets her standard of fit, quality, and price in the very first store she enters, she buys it—end of story. She is not concerned about better sweaters or better bargains just around the corner.
“To a maximizer, satisficers appear to be willing to settle for mediocrity, but that is not the case. A satisficer may be just as discriminating as a maximizer. The difference between the two types is that the satisficer is content with the merely excellent as opposed to the absolute best.”
As Former CEO and founder of Amazon Jeff Bezos noted in his 2010 Princeton University Commencement Speech: “We Are What We Choose”. Bezos spoke about the power of our choices and how it determines how far we go in life. He quipped: In the end, we are our choices
Cleverness is a gift, kindness is a choice. Gifts are easy — they’re given after all. Choices can be hard. You can seduce yourself with your gifts if you’re not careful, and if you do, it’ll probably be to the detriment of your choices.
He advised we ask the following questions when we are inundated with options and need to make some life-changing decisions. He said:
Tomorrow, in a very real sense, your life — the life you author from scratch on your own — begins.
How will you use your gifts? What choices will you make?
Will inertia be your guide, or will you follow your passions?
Will you follow dogma, or will you be original?
Will you choose a life of ease or a life of service and adventure?
Will you wilt under criticism, or will you follow your convictions?
Will you bluff it out when you’re wrong, or will you apologize?
Will you guard your heart against rejection, or will you act when you fall in love?
Will you play it safe, or will you be a little bit swashbuckling?
When it’s tough, will you give up, or will you be relentless?
Will you be a cynic, or will you be a builder?
Will you be clever at the expense of others, or will you be kind?
I will hazard a prediction. When you are 80 years old, and in a quiet moment of reflection narrating for only yourself the most personal version of your life story, the telling that will be most compact and meaningful will be the series of choices you have made. In the end, we are our choices. Build yourself a great story. Thank you and good luck!
It can be tough battling with making the right sets of decisions, it can be overwhelming and scary at times making the decisions, we know we need to make. As author Roy T. Bennett once said “You have two choices, to conquer your fear or to let your fear conquer you.” I think choosing to face our fears is the right decision, although it is usually not the easiest choice to make. It takes to courage close your eyes to all other great options and trust the process.
All the Best in your quest to get Better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.