I was thinking about all the different types of milk available these days and what an overwhelming amount of choice there is. The range can be useful for people with milk allergies or particularly dietary needs. However, do we really need so much choice? I remember a time when the only way to buy milk was a glass pint bottle of full cream milk.
Then I started to think about choice in a more general way. In modern day life we are faced with many choices each day. Shopping is a good example of a situation where we have to make lots of choices.
With milk, what type do you want? Dairy, goat, soy, almond, oat or coconut? Full cream, skim, fat reduced? Plain or flavoured? Fresh, UHT, powdered, evaporated or condensed? What size and type of container do you want? What brand?
Most grocery items present us with a range of choices. Each person will have their own criteria for making these choices. Is it healthy? (How much sugar, fat or salt does it contain? Does it contain artificial additives? Does it contain preservative?) How much does the item cost in money terms? Where is it made? Is it environmentally friendly? Are there ethical considerations? How is it packaged?
Moving from one place to another throughout the day can involve choices. Does one drive alone, car pool, ride a bike, walk or use public transport? The decision will be influenced by a person's finances, health, where they live, where they need to go and at what time of day, time available, their activities for the day and environmental considerations.
In all areas of life we have more choice than previous generations. The range of choice can be mind boggling. Whilst sometimes it is good to have a wide range of choices, all that decision making can be very tiring. Some people doubt their ability to make good decisions and find a need to ask others or follow the choices made by their peers or family members.
It can be helpful to limit the number of things you are choosing between rather than looking at all the options. This is particularly when there are many things to choose between. Perhaps you want to do a course of study. You know you study best in a face to face situation. Therefore it may be easier to make a decision if you narrow your choices by only considering courses that can be done face to face, assuming it is available in this mode.
Many psychologists and others recognise the problem of too much choice and say it can lead to loneliness and depression. The terms 'choice overload' and 'overchoice' have been coined in regard to the problem.
Some individuals make a conscious effort to keep their life simple to avoid the stress that comes with constantly facing too many choices. This is referred to as 'voluntary simplicity' by some. I recently read someone's suggestion that to limit stress one should 'Keep it very simple'. This makes good sense to me, but isn't always easy to achieve.