In a world of unlimited options, the act of choosing one path implies the exclusion of other preferences. How do you know if you are making the right choice?
People spend a lot of time assessing pro’s and con’s to ensure thorough decision-making. After all, a choice has the potential to alter your whole life!
Unfortunately, the effort put into the thought-process often generates a lot of frustration. Moreover, the degree of effort put into a decision does not necessarily lead to a feeling of having made the “right” choice. In fact, science shows that we actually end up being worse off as a result of more choices.
The paradox of choice
In an experiment, a number of students from Harvard University were given a choice of selecting one picture each to keep. Half of the students were allowed to change their mind and swop their chosen picture into another one at any time, the other half were not given this choice. Then their relative happiness was measured.
What was the result? – It turns out that those that were not given an option were a lot happier with their painting than the other group.
Moreover, the study found that most of the students at Harvard University believed that the group with a choice was better.
We prefer having more choices but end up being worse off with those privileges!
A world of opportunities
In a world of unlimited options this is a real problem, for the paradox of choice applies to all aspects of life.
Case: You get invited to a dinner next weekend, and you have to make a choice; yes or no. You hesitate. For it might be that another event pops up in the Facebook-feed, and that this event could be more appealing. You check Instagram, Facebook, messenger and Snapchat too, just to be sure. And the gym timetable just in case your favorite class is an option. You also check the weather forecast – what if it’s sun? Then you would rather want to be outside enjoying the energy of fresh air and heat rather than being at an indoor dinner party. But wait. Your calendar looks full next week, and you have been stressing a lot lately. Maybe it is better to stay at home and do yoga? To catch up on some of that reading. And what is your boyfriend doing? I should really see him, it’s been a while since you two had a date night. I can’t respond the dinner invitation just yet. Just in case…
See the problem? We keep thinking about what we might lose out on whilst life is passing by. We are not enjoying the current events, things, people or places 100% because we are dedicating thought and energy into constantly considering everything else. Just because we are under the delusion that more options are always a good thing.
How do we take advantage of our privileged world of opportunities?
The link between choices and yoga
One can learn a lot about decision-making from yoga.
Asana offers a practice of decision-making on the mat. How much do I push myself in order to be challenged, yet without trying too hard? Do I go further into the posture? Am I ready to try handstand? Should I pass on the next posture because of my injured knee, etc. A general rule is to practice Ahimsa, non-violence. To be kind to your body and soul. To not strive for the perfect but for the safe and smooth practice that gives you progress. What is really perfection compared to progress?
Asteya is another corner stone in yoga philosophy which is super helpful in decision making. Literally it means “no-stealing”- ie. not stealing time, things, ideas and so on. Further it can be interpreted as not getting lost to your ego – to not force anything. For instance, if you are cuddling a puppy and she wants to leave, you should let her go. For if you force the puppy to stay on your lap, it doesn’t want to come back next time.
Learning to letting things come and go is part of the yoga philosophy. We are accepting that change is inevitable. We are practicing to be content with “enough”.
“Learning to letting things come and go is part of the yoga philosophy. We are accepting that change is inevitable. We are practicing to be content with enough.”
Meditation is key in yoga. It improves your observation of the body and mind. Is the mind still and focused, or are the thoughts wandering off? With practice one becomes better at realizing when the thoughts wander. Hence, you get new chances to bring yourself back to the moment, to what really counts. Being here and now 100% increases your clarity and trust in your intention. Instead of making lists, you start feeling what choices to make. You do what makes you happy.
It doesn’t really matter
A similar trend for all those three points is balance. Yoga is essentially about learning to practice with dedication but effortlessly. Not too much, not too little. Just enough. Throughout a yoga class, you are constantly challenged to make decisions in order to find this balance.
Feeling lost in the paradox of choice? Join our yoga classes to explore the power of moving meditation. The goal is less effort to choices and more to the current moment. You’ll see that you don’t have to think about all your options at all times. For as long as you are present to experience that the now makes you happy, it doesn’t really matter what choice is “right” by thought.