THE BLOG
04/29/2014 10:34 am ET Updated Jun 29, 2014

The Power of Limiting Choice

Thomas Barwick via Getty Images

"The choices that we make aren't always perfect but it's OK... It's part of the journey."  --  Hayley Williams

We are surrounded by choices in life.

Modern living, the internet and social media seem to have increased the choices for many of us, by leaps and bounds.

What diet to follow: Is Paleo best or am I best off going vegetarian?

What exercise to take: Should I do heavy weights, light weights or no weights?

What clothes to wear: Does this color suit me? Do checks and stripes go together?

What blogs to follow: I'm subscribed to 25 already. Should I subscribe to 26 and fill my inbox with more messages?

This can lead us down the road of indecision and to paralysis by analysis. Too much mental data to process just confuses us. We read or hear one conflicting point after another about what we should and shouldn't do, and we just stay confused.

Ironically, too many choices can sometimes lead to us making no choice! Too many choices can also mean we jump from this bright and shiny new thing to that and never really commit to any of our choices. Influenced by what we think we should be doing (or what others tell us we should be doing) rather than by results.

Neither of these options are optimal.

The Power of Limiting Choice

Another road that can be taken is one where we deliberately limit our choices. We commit to choosing from a more limited pool, and then, we follow through. If this works out well, we stay committed to the choice. If not, we go back and choose something else that will work for us. We don't jump just because there is more on the table.

Limiting choice can improve our chances of actually making a decision and then staying committed to that decision. We put mental blinkers on and fully commit to what is in front of us.

Personal Experience

In my own case, I have benefitted from limiting choice in several areas of my life.

In terms of exercise, I have limited my exercise selection down to a small pool of big return exercises that suit my body, temperament and goals.

Unchecked, I can read too much on what I should be doing by this expert or that and just become more confused when these experts contradict each other. With this in mind, I have also started to limit the information channels I read -- less blogs, less magazines and being able to dig deeper into a few sources that I get most enjoyment/benefit from.

This has left me enjoying my workouts more, results in less confusion and provides more focus on the goal at hand -- a winning combination!

A Little Experiment for You

If you struggle with too many choices at times, try the following:

1. Choose From a Limited Pool
Over the next few weeks, stay focused on limiting choices in one area of your life. This could be the blogs you read, the foods you eat, the amount of sites you visit to check holiday deals, the fitness magazines you read or anything in between.

Whatever it is, intentionally limit your choices in this area.

2. Block Out Distractions
Once you have your small pool of choice to dip into in your chosen area, block everything else out. This will not be easy at first and will require some discipline, but it is essential to the experiment.

You need to cultivate some selective ignorance for this to work.

3. Commit to Your Choice
Fully commit to your choice. Enjoy it, explore it and revel in the process of making it.

4. Did It Work?
Is your choice having the desired effects you would like?

In the case of intentionally reducing food choices, are you feeling better and more energized? Have you lost some fat?

If not, it's time to go back to your limited pool of choices, and try something else for awhile. The important thing is you have given it time to work rather than staying stuck in making no decisions or in flitting from one thing to another.

Try intentionally limiting choice for a while and see if it helps you get out of the blocks.

Sometimes less really can mean more.


Carl is the proud owner of Frictionless Living which is focused on helping readers live a simpler and more personally satisfying life. He is also the author of several books including 22 Ways to Simpler Living. To read more and/or contact him go to his site.