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Scheme of Things

All Those Choices
By Nan S. Russell
Jul 11, 2014 - 5:51:00 PM

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"Really?!" Those near me in the grocery aisle could hardly miss the irritation in my voice. All I wanted on that Saturday of errands, on my last stop of the day, was to get in and out quickly so I could go home and get things ready for a family movie night.

Instead, the snack aisle where I typically buy a favorite 100% whole wheat cracker had morphed into an unknown entity. It wasn't just that they had moved the popcorn, nuts, crackers, and cookies around that slowed me down, it was that my snack wasn't there.

My eyes scanned the added shelves filled with new versions of "my cracker," created by the same manufacturer with flavors such as: Parmesan Garlic, Tomato and Sweet Basil, Brown Rice with Sea Salt and Pepper, Roasted Garlic, Cracked Pepper. Beyond being annoyed that my choice - the "original" - wasn't among them, now I'd have to go somewhere else when I wanted them. As I hunkered down to decide on a new cracker purchase that day, I noticed my irritation and stress growing with so many choices to pursue.

A few days later, I had a similar encounter trying to figure out which of the multitude of shampoo options would be best for my hair color, texture, and style. And recently, I gave up after an hour trying to pick a new kids' app to put on my phone for my granddaughters since sorting through so many was becoming daunting.

When did more become better? Do we need and want so many choices on everything from salad dressing to smart phones? With all that's there, I now have more choices of flavors not to buy; cosmetic and grooming options I don't need for things I didn't know I needed to think about; and more channels on TV to click through before deciding there's nothing I want to invest my time to watch. 

Has society morphed into such an all-about-me consuming culture that all of us need our individual preferences and tastes to be addressed? Or are we so addicted to the next-new-thing that manufacturers have no choice but to keep bringing out something "new," or at least something enhanced or new sounding.

In the process of personalization and high stakes marketing, what do so many choices bring us? How much time are we giving up wading through mountains of options for everything from toothpaste to backpacks? Do so many choices make our lives better? My answer is no.

We've reached a tipping point, I think, where we need to pause and realize that more is more - but not the kind of more we always want. More choices means more time, more stress, more junk, more trash, more unused stuff filling more space, and more environmental impact.

It seems to me, in the scheme of things, there's a difference between having a choice and having too many choices. More is not a synonym for better. In this time crunched, changing world, I'm looking for less not more; simpler not increased complexity; faster not time-consuming. Or, as author Laura Ingalls Wilder put it, "I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all."

(c) 2014 Nan S. Russell. All Rights Reserved.

Nan Russell is an award winning author. Her fourth book, Trust, Inc.: How to Create a Business Culture that Will Ignite Passion, Engagement, and Innovation was published  in November 2013. More about Nan and her work can be found at www.nanrussell.com.  Sign up to receive Nan's free monthly eColumn at: www.intheschemeofthings.com

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