The Evolution Of Choice: Limitation To Abundance

Up to the 1960s we didn’t have a lot to choose in life.

In those days, the family was seen as the cornerstone of society; the individual person did not really matter.  As a boy, you followed in your father’s footsteps and became the breadwinner of your family.  As a girl, it was especially important to get married while desirable and to take care of the housekeeping and the children.  Therefore, life was fairly predictable and clear.  Work was meant to put food on the table, not to be happy. People did what society (or rather: the government) expected from them. People generally accepted the -often-strong- hierarchical relations and the ruling authority.

The rise of…

youth culture and feminism in the sixties, in addition to secularization and changes in believe systems, led to a social and cultural revolution.  Different lifestyles and insights emerged, partly under the influence of media such as radio and TV.  This resulted in an explosive rise in choices in areas such as education, career and personal growth. The social focus shifted more towards the individual; the role of the family moved more into the background.

Freedom of choice combined with individualism seemed ideal at the time.

Everyone could now make the choices that were tailored to him / her.  But in a relatively short time all kinds of choices have increased immensely, both in number and in complexity.  This realization, together with the (self-imposed) responsibility to make specific “right” choices, nowadays appears to put a heavier pressure on many a shoulder than expected.  Especially choices that (in our view) relate to our identity, are currently considered to be very important and the associated consequences thus carefully weighed.

The fear of making a wrong choice

The resulting stress, combined with the idea that we are for the most part responsible for our success and our lives, is even crippling to some.  The fear of making a wrong choice (where there’s no way back) appears to get the upper hand. When in such an impasse, it can help to distance ourselves.

In addition these following tips might help:

  • Try to accept that we cannot always predict how a choice will turn out in the future
  • Realize that the so-called make ability of life is far more limited than we often think
  • A lot may be possible in life, that doesn’t mean we must do a lot of things
  • Not all possibilities need to be considered in every situation
  • Don’t always strive for the maximum result; just plain good is often good enough
  • What do both our reasoning and our feelings say when we’re making a particular choice?

In conclusion, most importantly, know what you want and why you want it.  Having a good self-insight can be helpful with this.

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