Article, Too Many Choices by Alan Kearns :

Too Many Choices
Alan Kearns

On the same floor in our Toronto office is Cadbury Schweppes (they own a number of brands you would recognize, including Dentyne). Recently, I entered the elevator at the same time as one of their staff. I asked her how business was doing. She expressed that overall things were good, however, one of their new products in the "gum" line was not doing as well as expected. As we were chatting, I told her that my problem with gum is that there are too many choices - maybe they should consider less choice, not more.

Have you ever felt confused at the gum counter? When I was growing up, it was between Juicy Fruit, Double Bubble, and maybe 6 or 8 additional choices. It was a fairly simple decision to make. Now, it is high anxiety gum choice - what if I don't like it? Will it really make my teeth white? AND it cleans my breath! WOW, do you have that in peppermint chocolate flavour?

Choices were not something that Henry Ford gave his clients when he was selling the Model T (I think I will take it in black!). Barry Schwartz has written a great book on this whole issue, titled "The Paradox of Choice". His premise is that while we have more choices, we seem to be less satisfied. More choice creates new problems.

This is a key issue with most professionals who are doing well in their careers; "Should I be a VP, or should I go and get an MBA? Should I start my own company, or should I buy a franchise?". Thirty years ago, you didn't have the range of choices you have today.

So how do you choose? That is the million dollar question. I have 3 rules to suggest when attempting to decide :

Rule #1 Know the why

In the midst of the decision making, it is easy to get caught up in the momentum of all the choices, and lose perspective of why are you have started down the path. Why are you at this decision point? Why do you need to make a decision? Is the anchor, the why, a short term reaction? Do you need more money, or is it that you really don't like the environment? Be sure to take the time to understand why you are at this point and why you need to make a decision.

Point #2: Be true to you

This past week, Time magazine announced their "Person of the year" award (drum roll please) - YOU! Their reasoning is the explosion of platforms such as YouTube, whose motto is "Broadcast Yourself!", and MySpace, which provides an opportunity for individuals to showcase themselves.

I think the need that these online communities are meeting is the need for self-expression and acceptance. They provide a place for the individual to have a voice in a world that is growing more homogeneous.

I often hear people say they made a career decision based on the opinions or wishes of someone else. I am not trying to imply that you should ignore the needs of others or disregard their advice about your choices; however, you need to remember that your primary needs are at stake. Your employer hasn't hired your Mom/Dad/Partner/Best friend, they hired YOU. When you are fully present in everything you do, and you are true to your core needs, everyone wins.

Point #3: Trust your gut

Starbucks is one of the great global brands. Whether you agree with everything they do or not, you cannot argue with their success. One of their secrets is that they refuse to conduct focus groups. Howard Schultz, the founder of the company, decided to sell The New York Times in the stores. Why? Because "it felt right". The senior executives make big decisions based on their gut instincts. Pay attention to your gut, it is the final and most accurate "tool" we have. Trust yourself - in most cases you are correct.

As I sit here in Toronto writing this week's WORKout, I can hear the Salvation Army Band playing Christmas songs. This is what makes this time of year great - how often do you get to hear that kind of hope on Yonge Street? There is something comforting in knowing that this season is about family, community, hope, and the reality of faith in people's lives. My own hope is that you experience this kind of comfort over the Christmas season.

This week's 10 minute WORKout:

Think about a time when you made a great decision. How did you use your gut?


Alan Kearns is associated with the What Color Is Your Parachute? career search team, as well as being certified in the Highlands Career Assessment Methodology and the DISC Personal Profile. Alan was a founding member of the International Association of Coaches (IAC) and also has memberships with the Career Masters Institute (CMI) and the International Association of Career Management Professionals (IACMP).


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