The Stress of Choice

GlassesI had my eyes tested this week and needed to get some new glasses for working at the computer. When it came to the point of choosing frames I asked to be shown the cheapest. I tried on two pairs and chose one. It took me less than a minute. All I needed was a functional pair of glasses.

Since moving to the Hermitage I have needed to do the weekly shopping. So much choice seems like a treat at first – all these good things to choose from. But choosing soon becomes a stress. Have you ever stood in front of shelves of different brands and pack sizes of toilet paper trying to work out which is the best deal? And most people will try to pick out the best looking fruit, which struck me recently as faintly ridiculous in that each person thinks they have chosen the best, but the person before them thinks they got the best, and so on and so on. Making the best choice becomes a stress – did I get the best deal or have I wasted money? Did I buy the freshest fruit? Was there a product that I would have liked more?

Yesterday I went to an old-fashioned greengrocer. They had everything I wanted and I didn’t have to choose between loose or packaged, this type or that type. What a relief.

So I challenge the idea that choice is necessarily an indicator of freedom. Sometimes choice is a chore and a stress. I’d rather have an extra half hour here at the Hermitage on a sunny afternoon looking out on the lake than trying on endless pairs of glasses. That is my choice. By the way, I got a brief glimpse of a kingfisher yesterday, only the second I have ever seen in my life. Now that was a treat.

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