I stood frozen in the bakery aisle of the grocery store, surrounded by more categories of bread than I could count. There was honey oats, multi-grain, milk-bread, whole-grain, whole-wheat, gluten-free, organic, sesame, sourdough, buckwheat, rye and many many more. I nervously glanced back and forth, scanning but not being able to decide. It was almost as if I was paralyzed.
My trauma did not end with the bakery aisle. It was the same story in the milk section, canned foods, dry snacks and even fresh fruits. This world of magnificent choices had opened up and once I knew all there was to offer, I couldn’t go back. I had to taste all of the categories and decide what I liked best.
Bread brought me to my knees. I had never thought that that was possible but in retrospect, it makes sense. I was born in the small city of Kanpur which never offered a labyrinth of choices especially when it came to groceries. When brown bread became a fad, we would find ways to source it from Delhi. Imagine my surprise when I walked into a department store in Los Angeles, US for the first time a few years ago.
How many times has something like this happened to you? To be unable to pick a restaurant, because what if some other place has better food? To not know where to go because what if the other places are better? To be paralyzed by choices, because choosing something means you’re also choosing away all the other options available. Philosopher and author Erich Fromm in Escape From Freedom wrote about people being plagued by an abundance of choices in modern democracies. These choices leave us feeling helpless because of missing out, closing a door or losing options.
With increasing specialization, choices seem to be doubling and the possibilities are endless. We grow up believing that we can do anything, become anything. But what if we don’t get to try everything? How will we know what to do? How will we know what is it that we truly like?
The truth is we never can try everything, never see it all or do it all. In the rush to do so, we miss out on what we can do. We ignore the talents we possess in search for better ones that we think we may possess. We believe unless we discover these, we are giving up on amazing opportunities that are waiting for us.
So, how to end this habit of indecision?
You have to begin by identifying how impactful the decision is. If it’s about something mundane like choosing bread, follow these steps:
1. Put yourself on a timer. You have exactly three minutes to choose a loaf of bread.
2. Minimize decisions. Is buying bread really that important? If not, take two loaves, flip a coin and go with what you called out.
3. Build habits. Like the sourdough loaf? Always go for it.
If it's a more significant decision like moving cities or choosing between two jobs:
1. Imagine that you're advising a friend. If someone else was in your situation, what would you tell them to do?
2. Imagine the worst-case scenario as a result of your choice. Would you be okay with it?
Don’t be afraid of making a decision for the fear that all other doors will close. Remember that choosing something isn’t the end of all other roads. It’s a new path opening up. Let go of the what-ifs, take a deep breath and just go for what feels right.
Vrinda Prahladka is a graduate from the University of Southern California and the London School of Economics. A curriculum specialist at Harappa Education, her claim to fame is that she’s met the Kardashians!
Discover more from Harappa with a selection of trending blogs on the latest topics in online learning and career transformation