We are, as Generation Y and X, the most privileged generations that have come to be. And yet, we are of generations easily dissatisfied and often disconcerted. We have some very unique new age dilemmas. (You wonder if I am a loathing critic? Quite the contrary – I am an admirer. )
Privileged as we are, we also have the most opportunity and potential. Our issues are the unnoticed natural dust accumulating on the furniture – some routine housecleaning will help in avoiding unforeseen colds.
Our systemic issues are placed in a domino sequence. Sitting at the very beginning is,
The Paradox of Choice
There is liberation in choices. And yet, the more choices we are given, the less free we make ourselves. I will let author Bruce Hood explain: “we procrastinate in trying to make the best decision…We are so worried that we may make the wrong choice that we try to compare…along dimensions that we have not even considered relevant before…that makes us put off things that we really should do now.”
I say no more.
This pushes over the next domino in the sequence:
The Paradox of Commitment
It is only when one limits their own options that they can manage to exert influence on the other participant’s choice of actions. I am talking Game Theory 101, with a little real-life ambiguity.
Suppose I have two free tickets for a movie show tonight – and I have a choice between Birdman, and Mad Max Fury. My first preference is definitely Birdman. If I fail to find suitable company, I am happy to go for Mad Max as a second option. I post this on facebook to invite replies. By noon, I get two replies for Mad Max, but none for Birdman (I know, all interested parties had already seen the latter Academy Award winner). In theory, I am quite flexible in this situation as I am somewhat okay with either of the movies.
However, my flexibility has added uncertainty into the situation. Although I am quite open with my choice, I cannot say a ‘yes’ to the two people who messaged me as I am still hoping for someone to say yes to Birdman. I tell the two friends the situation and that I will confirm about Mad Max plans in the evening. Come evening, if I am lucky, then I would have found company for Birdman. If not, my two other Mad Max friends may have by now made alternate plans and leave me friend-less for the movie. What’s more, I might be too late to book a seat for Birdman and end up going for the dreaded Mad Max anyway. Had I committed myself to Mad Max earlier, I would have had some company. Alternatively, I could commit myself to Birdman. That way, I am sure to go for Birdman that night – I might go alone, or with someone, but atleast get to watch the right movie!
Clearly, if I were aware of my own preference, I would have committed to Birdman quite early on. Things get more complicated when I have a third choice of a Woody Allen movie, let’s say Irrational Man. Would you suggest me to commit to Birdman or Woody Allen? Birdman may give me an 8 or a 10, whereas Irrational Man is a definite 9.
Different people would have different answers, but it is easy to see that as little as three choices could cause commitment paralysis – a sheer lack of focused commitment – there is no telling what multiple choices, as in real life, can do.
Solution to the commitment paradox – commit! Commit yourself to a choice, and this will lead other people to join you. If you are certain in your path, it lets people make certain decisions (if not, introduce them to ways of resolving the commitment paradox).
But why can we not commit?
Fear of Losing vs. Fear of Losing out
Fear of losing inhibits action, when things should have just been carried through, when we over-think and over-analyze a situation to decide our actions. Given that nothing is perfect, we end up finding a fault in the possibility we had imagined, we ruffle the feathers of our mind and force it to look elsewhere. “The person over wedded to the planned career (especially if they happen to hate it) tends to believe the best risk management strategy is to take no risks.” It is completely legitimate to seek stability. Priorities change at different stages in life.
And then there is the fear of losing out. Fear of losing out pushes us to do things – reach beyond, don’t take things for granted, run around with a net, chasing dreams and ideas of fancies regularly. Of course there are many bumps and dumps in this process when what we dream of, does not materialize. It is worth the effort for the few things that do materialize. It all depends if at the end of the day you want to go to bed fearful of life, or over-filled.
The second approach works well until it reaches a manic level where one does things without real meaning behind them. In the previous movie example, fear of losing out would mean, me having gone for all three movies one after another – in essence not giving complete attention to any single one.
But why do we want to keep our cake and eat it too? To put it another way, why do we want more and more?
A wrong anchor can sink your boat
There is an explanation behind why we want more of everything, even when we don’t really want it.
Anchoring is usually spoken of as a marketing phenomenon where a consumer sets a certain standard in their mind (usually by what the market signals to them). Every consumer decision made thereof, is biased and would either overwhelm or underwhelm you depending on this initial anchor.
Media, especially social media, tells us more is good. Its continuous feed of glossy images and status updates shows a lop-sided view of life. If you go by social media standards, you would imagine there to be no space for a normal day as we live it. It incorrectly anchors ‘normal’ days to be a chain of events, one exceeding the others in terms of excitement. We are told to over-use and under-appreciate.
Since when is it okay to over-use and under-appreciate? If our generation is unhappy, it is often because we have received too much too quick, not recommended for digestion. If you are buzzing with too much cake and yet unsatisfied – it is time to take a walk and clear up the shelves of the dust – our indulgence needs a break and our potential needs fresh air to thrive.