This week, I went to lunch with a friend. After paying for our meals, we were handed our drink cups and went promptly to the station to fill them. And what I was confronted with was the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine, a drink dispenser offering “100+ drink choices.”
Yes, that’s not a typo … not 8 choices, but 100 PLUS.
And although I’ve seen this before at movie theaters and other restaurants, I was taken aback and stumped with all my drink choices.
And here’s how my internal dialog went:
“All these choices, wow, this is great! But what do I want?
They have flavored Dasani water?!
Oh wow, Pibb … uh, and Pibb Zero!? Yuck.
Ha! Mello Yellow is still a thing! That’s crazy.
And categories of drinks: Low no cal, caffeine free and fruit flavored.
Ok, focus, Cory, focus, you need to pick a drink and get on with life.
Right. Right. I just want Ginger Ale. That’s what I want. I’m going to click that.
Or wait, what about Diet Dr. Pepper.
No, Ginger Ale. That’s what I’m going with. But this says Diet Ginger Ale, barf.
Where the heck is just plain Ginger Ale.
Ok, Seagram’s Ginger Ale, click that and I’m done.
Nope! Are you kidding me? Now I can pick flavoring with my Ginger Ale. Lime, Orange, Vanilla, and Raspberry.
Come on, did they consult with my toddler on these choices?
But you know, I kind of wonder what Lime in Ginger Ale would taste like. Hmmm, yeah.
OK, seriously. Time to pick and move on. It’s go time.
Ginger Ale with Lime. Give it to me, Drink Computer!
Wait, do I push the button again, or put my cup in the …..”
And all that led me to think about freedom and choices.
Freedom is awesome. I love freedom. It’s one of the central goals of my life — to have and enjoy more freedom in every aspect of it.
But total freedom, in the form of unlimited choices and options, can really suck.
Endless infinite choices, options, paths and alternatives often means endless waste of finite resources.
When everything is an option, everything sucks.
I’ll give you three quick reasons:
1. Analysis paralysis
Too many options and paths and ideas leads to endless internal debates about which one to choose.
Is this one better than that one? But what about this one related to that one?
“Gosh, I have all these choices, I want to pick the very best choice available. But which one is the very, very best?”
2. Decision fatigue
Too many decisions causes mental fatigue and then you definitely don’t make good sound decisions when you’re exhausted from it all.
And then with all these options, sometimes you can’t make a timely or confident decision.
Like me sitting in front of the Freestyle, wondering which of the 100+ choices I really wanted.
And once you’ve made the decision, finally … with a myriad and infinite list of options, you start to wander, “What if I choose that other option?”
Which led me to this:
Sometimes it’s just really good to have boundaries and limits, to be told there is only a set of finite options available.
If you’re like me, you have too many options, too many paths, and too many choices, for almost everything.
Boundaries and limits are good and necessary and healthy.
Here are a couple of tactics I’ve employed to limit my options and preserve my energy and time:
- Reserve your decision energy for what matters most — Particularly I try not to make a ton of important decisions after a big event zaps my energy. Like a long meeting or travel day, or a meeting with a heavy emphasis on numbers and financials.
- Get solid on your priorities — Know what matters most, what has the highest impact, your passions, interests … and focus on them first and foremost. I didn’t want to stand in front of the Freestyle for 5 minutes. I’d rather spend that time talking with my friend.
- Limit your options beforehand — With your priorities in mind, get ahead and pre-select before you’re presented with a ton of options. For example, I knew when I was buying my truck last year that I didn’t want the premium packages. I simply wanted a base truck, with a couple of features. So when the salesperson kept trying to show me other “fully loaded” trucks, I persistently reminded him I only want this one truck and would not entertain any other options. (Same with the extended warranty upsells!)
Because you know what … sometimes all you want and need is just a simple drink of Ginger Ale!
With ice of course.