The distance between
your reality and your expectation is your amount of suffering.
In this era, in the Western world, we are faced with an
overwhelming amount of opportunity, of choice. It is known to be a wonderful
thing having the opportunity to do this or to do that but in reality this
overload of choices can diminish our happiness. It can take us away from the
feeling of satisfaction.
It is inevitable that no matter where we go, we will have a
variety of choices. It is as simple as stopping at a rest stop to grab a snack.
Despite the fact you have to choose what snack you want you have to choose what
drink you want, the choices seem endless. You walk down the candy isle at the
gas station… all you want is a snack you can nibble on for the next few hours.
But that is not an easy task, you end up walking down the four isles of goodies
that are offered, not to mention the selection at the front by the cashier, but
you manage to pick a few things out but debate on what to buy. You ask your
friend what they are getting and they as well are struggling to come to a
decision until you finally decide that you want chocolate. But then you have to
decide if you want a chocolate bar, chocolate that comes in a bag like
M&Ms, or if you want chocolate filled with mint, peanut butter or nuts. And
that is not all then you have to decide what drink. You have to scan the entire
back wall of refrigerators to see the endless selection. You simply want a
bottle of water but that is too much to ask as you are presented with an entire refrigerator
dedicated to all the water bottle brands. You finally make a decision and get
back on the road. You realize you should have gotten Coke instead of water because
it would have tasted better with your chocolate candy. Next time you will not
get the chocolate because now it is melting in your hand. So consequently, you
are now disappointed. Why? Because you had all these choices, which sets you up
for a high expectation of the choice and then when it does not meet that high
expectation you are disappointed. If you only had the choice of one drink or
one choice of snack then you would not have had this feeling of dissatisfaction
because there would not have been a choice.
This can also go as deep when dealing with a serious
situation. In the old days there was typically one choice when you were sick.
You take this medicine and hope it works. Now you have the choice to take this
medicine, with these sides effects and benefits and three other options with
those side effects and benefits. Dr. Barry Schwartz talks about this issue in
depth in his book The Paradox of Choice.
In Dr. Schwartz’s studies he concludes that, “choice has
made us not freer but more paralyzed, not happier but more dissatisfied.”
Say your grandfather is sick with cancer. The doctor offers
two procedures but says either way there is chance of death. But it is up to
you, the patient’s family, to make the decision. This is called patient
autonomy, when the burden is put on the family and the doctor no longer makes
the final call. Unfortunately this creates stress and unhappiness.
When your grandfather passes away for whatever reason the
choice you made for him already created stress and tension for your family but
now brings the feeling of regret and guilt. You now think if you decided to do
the other procedure things could have been better, that he would have survived
or lived longer. The blame is now placed on you. Although really it is not you
to blame, before when there was not so much choice and the doctor would say this
is what we do without debate. It would release the possibility of the feelings
of blame. No longer would you feel that is was your fault and you made the
wrong choice. But now, we feel because the choices our in the palms of our
hands that it is our fault.
Consequently our rate of satisfaction goes down affecting
our state of mind.
Say you want to buy a new camera, so you go to Best Buy and
ask, “Can I have a camera?” Well it is not that simple. There are hundreds of
choices. First the sales guy may ask, “What brand do you want?” Well then you
say, “What brands do you have?” And then he starts listing them off, “Canon,
SONY, Nikon, Fujifilm, Samsung, Olympus, Kodak, Panasonic…” From there you have
to decide what brand it is you want, what kind you want, if you want the extra
lens, or if you want these effects… and so on. Eventually we make a decision.
One that was more difficult than it used to be because of the demanding
choices. But in the end you settle with one.
You then take it home and your friend asks, “Why didn’t you
get the Canon?” or “Why didn’t you get the one that includes the night time
feature?” This creates a sense of dissatisfaction as you think, “Oh well if I
got the other one this photo would have been better.” Or, “Next time I will get
a Canon because I do not like this one as much.” The choices in all aspects of
life start to paralyze us and we do not know what to choose or what to do. We
are constantly unsatisfied.
The Pressure from
The paralysis of opportunity becomes extremely present and
powerful when one is deciding a future career or educational path. Because in
the Western world we have the opportunity to go to school across the country,
out of the country or stay in-state. We have the opportunity to travel abroad
in Asia, Africa, and beyond. We have the opportunity after graduating college
to travel, get a job, continue school, or move home. The opportunities
presented to us at a young age can paralyze us. The endless amount of opportunities
can harm our current state of happiness.
In the end, we have to make a decision. The choice is on us;
we do not have people making our decisions or a one-way road. Not in this
Once we make a final decision say to go to college across
the country instead of stay in state. We have a high expectation to enjoy this
college because of all the choices we had. However it does not meet your
expectations so you transfer to a college in state hoping this will bring you
the happiness or contentment the other school was supposed to bring you. In the
end, it is the same. Therefore, you loose hope and your rate of satisfaction is
lowered because of the high expectations that were supposed to come along with
the variety of choice.
Or say, you could choose anywhere to study abroad. So you
decide to go to Spain and your friend decided to go to Australia. You realize
your friend is having more fun than you and you should have gone to Australia.
(I studied abroad in Spain and I had the best time of my life, this is just a
scenario). You are less satisfied with your trip because you had the
opportunity to go to Australia but you chose somewhere else. Although in
reality taking that opportunity would not necessarily be better than the one
you chose, you just think it would be because of your high expectations for
In these moments you get lost in all the ways you could have
gone. You regret it because all of the opportunity. And when you get lost
wishing you did one thing it is impossible to enjoy your current state because
you are thinking you were somewhere else. No matter what path you decide, there
will be struggle, lose and low points. It will not be all sunflowers and
daisies. Yet you think that is possible because there are so many options, that
one has to be that great. That is not true.
Remember that in life comes low points and that does not
mean you took the wrong path. Accept where are you and find peace in the
present and comfort in your life. As my grandmother would say, “dejá lo!” which
means, “let it be!”
Lost in Choices
Opportunity is meant to be a beautiful thing that this
generation does not have to work as hard for as their parents did. Our parents
wanted the 9-5 job and earn a fair living. This generation does not want a 9-5
job because we are presented with overwhelming opportunity to do so many things
that are possible and acceptable in society.
It is not our fault that we have so many choices but we have
to be aware that this amount of opportunity can affect our level of happiness.
We see our friends travelling the world and automatically
desire to do what they are doing. The concept that we have the choices that our
parents would never dream of after they graduated college can be detrimental to
finding peace in our present life.
It is also easy to get distracted and overwhelmed by the
concept of opportunity that we ourselves get lost in the choices. We feel like
there are so many choices that we do not know what is right for us and start to
feel dissatisfaction in the road we took.
If there were only one-way to go like our parents had:
graduate, get a 9-5 job, get married, etc. there would be less feelings of
With that in mind and the fact that we cannot change this
modern world we have to come to terms with opportunity. Because it is so easy
to become dissatisfied in this society we have to understand that no matter the
decision we make we become strong, we grow and although we may question the
road we took, we have to remember that we are being paralyzed by choice.
We set high standards for the road we take because we
started with a handful of roads to travel and expect the road we choose will
bring us the highest rate of satisfaction. And when we find ourselves
struggling on the path, which in every path we take we will find obstacles, we
then become paralyzed by opportunity. We then think because we are struggling
on the path we took that we should not have gone this way and instead we should
have taken the job opportunity in Seattle or whatever it was that we did not
do. We forget how to find peace and happiness in the road we took because of
all the distractions around us.
The Power of Social
When we see our friends on social media posting pictures it
is easy to feel that your life is not as good because your friends are posting
these awesome photos. But you have to remember that what people post is a way
they “brand” themselves, how they want others to see them. They post only what
they want others to see, essentially the best photos, which makes others think
they are having a great time all the time.
When in reality we all have issues. We have to realize that
it is awesome our friends can be having fun but that does not mean their life
is better than yours because you see them partying at the beach or climbing a
volcano. We have to realize that social media is a way people want others to
see them and so they create an image that does not necessarily mean they are
worry free. So when you feel a sense of sadness that you wish you were there
(or as we say FOMO) do not let it bring your level of happiness down because of
their social media image. And that is also referring to the chapter Finding Solid Ground, discussing the
importance of not comparing yourself to others. However, it is easy in this era
to have a lower rate of happiness because you see what the world is doing
Do not let the overbearing presence of social media lower
your level of happiness. If it makes it easier, do not use social media as much
as you typically do, stray away from the clutter that is hurting your state of
In this society we are poured with distractions and choices
that we forget where we are in life. We forget we chose this path for a reason,
we had to make a choice and we chose this one. And we forget that this path can
bring us happiness but we are stopping ourselves from that feeling of happiness
because of the distracting chances of opportunity around us.
Taking aside the idea of chances and opportunity we were
born into a society of distractions, TVs, phones, electronics, at anytime most
anywhere in the world we can be contacted. When are parents were growing up it
would be unfathomable for them to think they could get in touch in with us
across the world within seconds, having the internet so accessible.
We are spoiled with technology and have become consumed in
the materialistic part of society. A study of media usage and ad exposure done
by Media Dynamics Inc. came to the conclusion that the average number of
advertisements and brand exposures per day per person are 5,000 plus.
We see an estimated 5,000 advertisements per day. No wonder
our generation is a little confused. We are bombarded with choices as simple as
choosing which brand of jeans to buy to what to restaurant to eat at.
We were born to have high expectations because of the
unlimited amount of choices. Therefore we need to learn to not set the bar so
If we lower our expectations of our choices our rate of
satisfaction will go up. That is obvious. If you go out with your friends
(instead of doing the other countless options) and do not expect to have a good
night, the chances of being more satisfied rise. We need to understand that
despite the several choices we have that does not mean the choice will gives us
this greater sense of satisfaction; that no matter the quantity in choices the
quality will not necessarily be so much greater just because the option is
there. And we would never know how great the other choice would be, but we
assume it would be better because we are not satisfied with the one we took
because we had set that high standard.
The other paralysis of opportunity is the notion of regret.
We regret not going one way and taking the other route. That is why we cannot
regret decisions we have made because they cannot be changed. We cannot reverse
time. We have to accept each action and take something of value from it.
Otherwise it is a lose-lose situation. We make mistakes but that is how we
grow. Some of us need to make the mistakes in order to learn and grow.
We need to remember that with the overload of choices it can
paralyze us and have us stuck in confusion, flustered, not knowing which way to
go. You have to step away from the chaos, take a deep breath, and feel what
your heart desires most. Sometimes with harder decisions it is not something
that can be made right away. You may need time to escape in your body and find
where your soul wants to travel. And once we are able to getaway from the
overwhelming feeling of opportunity we can find what path that is the best for
us. Then we can take it and the stress of all those choices are ceased. And
after we take this path we may start to struggle or regret that we did not
choose the other direction. But we have to remember what made us choose this
path – your gut. So just because there were many other options that does not
mean it was the wrong way to go. You are forgetting the purpose of why you took
this path. You are getting lost and paralyzed in opportunity.
Remember that in this life there will be plenty of
opportunities, it is no longer about finding them, it is choosing one and
Ground yourself, make the decision you want using your mind,
find contentment in your path, and focus on the present, the reality. Do not
dwell on the if, could-a, would-a, should-a.
This is your life and if you choose to let the overwhelming
options, opportunities and the constant connection with social media crowd your
mind you will find yourself lost, confused and unhappy. So become aware of all
that is around but be able to ground yourself and let your mind become clear of
all that chaos. Remember that opportunity can hurt you if you do not live in
the present and remember why you are here in the first place. And if it is not
where you want to be, step away from all of the noise. It will help you find
the direction you want to travel. Give yourself that time, you deserve it.
not let the overwhelming amount of choices and opportunities overwhelm your
not set a high standard for the road you take because you had so many choices
content with the road you take
4. Focus on
the present… enjoy life’s