Post-Christmas Resolution, Day 277 – Too Many Choices

“I got thirteen channels of shit on the T.V. to choose from.”

— Pink Floyd, Nobody Home

Bob Geldof had thirteen channels.

When I was young, we had four channels.

Tonight, I had dinner with a man who grew up with only two channels.

Petr is from the Czech Republic which was, during his youth, under Communist control. Television was black and white. There were two channels, both state run. Typically, the programs were dull.

Except on Sunday night.

Sunday nights were when they showed American western movies. John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, spaghetti westerns. It was all that Petr and his friends wanted to watch. Nothing else mattered and they were happy.

Consider our choices today. Comcast’s basic cable package gives us 80 channels. With enough money we could watch 500 channels.

Does that make us happier? Petr does not think so. His theory is that when we get too much choice, we shut down. Petr’s not alone. Barry Schwartz argues in his 2004 book, The Paradox of Choice, that too much choice actually increases our anxiety and spoils the happiness that choice can bring.

Petr is a success story. In the late 1990’s he made a choice to come to America, not speaking a word of English. He moved in with his sister in California intending to stay a month or two. He never left.

He took every English class he could. He received a work scholarship to get his Bachelors degree. He then went back and earned a Masters degree in Finance. More recently, he is within one requirement to earn his Distinguished Toastmaster award (DTM). It is the highest award Toastmasters offers.

Every day we are faced with a barrage of choices. Choices on how we can spend our time. Those choices can be staggering.

If you feel overwhelmed by choices, stop. Then boil it down to two questions.

Does this choice help only myself? Or does this choice help others as well?

The choice is ours.

Gave a speech for a group of non-Toastmasters as part of a Speechcraft class. With a little luck, this educational speech helped explain the power of body language in communication to the students and moved Petr one step closer to his DTM.

About Eric Winger

Our perception of time is key to how we use our time. The most fundamental way to change that perception is to give our time. This opens us up to new opportunities and ideas from which we can build to really make a difference. ... Yes, we *do* have time to make a difference!
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