Students paralyzed by choices

Anny Chih photo

By Anny Chih, 24 hours Vancouver

Don't let too many choices get you down. (FOTOLIA)

Don't let too many choices get you down. (FOTOLIA)

In 2004, psychologist Barry Schwartz wrote a book called The Paradox of Choice about the plethora of choices making consumers increasingly anxious. At the time, his local supermarket offered 175 pre-made salad dressings to choose from and he had come to realize that offering too many options was making decision-makers unhappy because there would always be the "what ifs" of having purchased a more flavourful product with less fat, fewer preservatives, a cheaper price, a more ergonomic bottle, and so on. Fast-forward a decade later and people are still plagued with an overabundance of options at the supermarket, but the number of decisions required in other areas of life has only increased, potentially making this generation of consumers more unsatisfied than any other.


Students growing up in this vast market of choice are especially challenged and can easily become paralyzed by choice when it comes to the biggest decisions of their lives. Expectations for Generation Z are intimidatingly high — with the media's natural inclination to feature incredible teen innovators and entrepreneurs, and so each decision to attend the right university, college, technical institute or start a new business, apprentice with a professional, take online classes, or travel is unnerving in its unlimited scope and potential opportunity. Similar to "FOMO" — the fear of missing out on social events — youth can easily become fearful of missing out on opportunities for personal success because "you only live once" and the responsibility of finding happiness among the abundance of choice falls only on the person making those decisions.

To alleviate anxiety, students can rest assured that there are no right answers for life decisions. Judgment is only passed when there is a goal by which to measure the results, and the real differences between choices are often less significant than they appear. For example, if you choose a school based on its reputation for your study of choice but then find that you want to change faculties, your initial decision wasn't a mistake. It was the best decision you could've made at the time and chances are that your new faculty is comparable to its counterpart at another school. If not, you can always transfer. After all, opportunities are endless! All you have to do is start with making a decision. Any decision will do. 

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