Below is a chart put together by Stephen Von Worley showing the original 8 colors produced by Crayola in 1903 through the many choices they offered in 2010. According to his math, Crayola will have over 330 choices by 2050. Here is the question, “Do we need 330 colors or will 8 do?” The answer may be different for everyone and that’s my point.
The biggest obstacle facing today’s modern family is too many choices.
A question I like to ask parents when speaking at family or parenting events is this, “Is it easier to raise kids today or was it easier to raise kids 20 years ago?” The overwhelming answer is, “It was easier to raise kids 20 years ago.”
The follow up question is usually, “Why was it easier?” The response is usually something like this, “It was a more simple time.” We would probably agree that 20 years ago was a more simple time but what exactly was it that made it more simple? To that I would say, less choice.
Twenty years ago, the pace of life was more predictable and more simple because our choices were limited. The phone was on the wall, the mail was in a box and you could only play four sports and not at the same time!
When we went to a movie 20 years ago we had one option and that was because it was the only movie playing. Today we can stream just about any movie we want whenever we want, wherever we want and when we go out to see a movie as a family we have multiple choices for the same movie!
Our family went to the movies the other day, and the movie we wanted to see was playing at the same time in four different theaters!
Our first choice was to see the movie with enhanced RPX sound!
Our second choice was to see the movie in 3D!
Our third choice was to see the movie on the large IMAX screen!
Our fourth choice (according to the lady selling us the tickets) was to see the movie “regular.”
Who wants to see a movie “regular” when you can have it with better sound, 3D or have an IMAX experience? I understand the dilemma, I have seen movies in IMAX theaters and have enjoyed the “experience.” What I am suggesting is that having more choice doesn’t seem to be helping us and in fact I believe it is hurting us.
What Has More Choice Done For Us?
1. More Choice Has Caused More Anxiety
We can get better fitting clothes, go on better vacations, see movies in 3D or IMAX. We can choose what we want when we want and how we want but has it made us happier? I would suggest that it hasn’t. When we make a choice we still often come away from that choice feeling worse or at best feeling like we could have “done better” if we had made a different choice.
Seeing a movie is a great example. If you see a movie regular when you had three other choices we may feel like it really would have been better if we saw one of the others. Or, if we chose the IMAX experience we may walk away saying it was good but it wasn’t that good. Maybe we should have seen it regular and saved a few dollars.
2. More Choice Has Stopped Us From Making A Choice
Research suggests that more choice causes a paralysis in our decision making. A “Paralysis of Analysis” so to speak. When people are offered more choices studies suggest that people don’t make a choice at all, why? If we are presented with multiple options we may have to do a little research in order to make an intelligent choice. We may have to get others to agree with our choice (as was the case in the movie example). The result is delay. We delay our decisions and ultimately don’t decide because “it was just to much to think about.”
3. More Choice Has Cost Us More Time
Let’s take a trip to our clothes closet. Urban legend suggests that Albert Einstein’s wardrobe consisted only of black pants and white shirts. The reasoning behind the simple wardrobe, according to Einstein, was that it reduced his choices. By only having black pants and white shirts, he didn’t have to spend any time thinking about what matched what or what pants went with what shirt. His choice of what to wear had already been made for him.
What would happen to our time if we practiced a little bit of Einstein wisdom and put ourselves and our families in a position where we had limited choices.
Our abundance of choice doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. We are in a culture that values individualism and freedom of choice and I enjoy both these things, I’m not “down” on choices. I struggle right along with everyone else with the above three things as well. The question I keep asking myself is, “what can we do about it?”
What Can We Do About It?
More choice requires more self-control and we seem to be loosing the battle. More choice has allowed us to do better with our selections but along with more choice comes more stress, more anxiety, more time spent thinking, praying, and deciding what choice is the right choice for us and our families.
More Self-Control seems to be the answer. The phone is no longer attached to the wall so we must exercise self control with our cell phones. There is no cord helping us with our choice to start a call in the kitchen and end it in the car. Here are is a great reminder from 2 Peter.
Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self- control, and in your self- control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short- sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 2 Peter 1:5-9 NASB
“In your knowledge, self-control.”
Photo Credit: (Velo's Crayola Color Chart, 1903-2010) http://www.datapointed.net/visualizations/color/crayola-crayon-chart