Limit your choices

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jennypenny
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Limit your choices

Post by jennypenny » Sun Dec 09, 2018 8:10 am

classical_Liberal wrote:
Fri Dec 07, 2018 4:24 am

I'd love an elaboration on this, maybe it deserves a thread of it's own?
I think it's an important topic that is also more nuanced than most people realize. I'm knee-deep in real life at the moment, so I'm going to have to post what I've researched in bits and pieces. Sorry.

First, read Barry Schwartz's The Paradox of Choice. If you're not a reader, here's a youtube video of a lecture discussing the book. There's also a TEDtalk but the lecture I posted is more recent. The most relevant parts are between @15-25 minutes if you don't have time to watch the whole thing.

IMO, the relevance of limiting your choices wrt to ERE ...

1. Limiting daily choices reduces decision fatigue; save the decision making for important decisions. Wrt ERE, I see it like the big three in costs ... making the correct decisions wrt housing, etc, has much more of an effect on your life than what you eat for dinner every day. Put your decision energy into the big decisions. All decisions are not equal.

2. Limiting choices helps you to actually make the decision, and helps you to move on to the next decision. I think part of what people find paralyzing about ERE is that there are too many choices. As soon as you narrow the field and make a decision or two, the subsequent decisions get easier.

3. It lends itself to minimalism, the benefits of which have been documented in other threads.

4. Limiting choices has been shown to make you more satisfied with your choices. We don't seem very good at that here, so this might be one way to find more satisfaction.

5. Limiting your choices also limits the amount of planning required. Some of you make yourselves crazy planning for contingencies. Others seem overwhelmed when trying to plan for post-ERE life. There's a difference between looking for faults in your planning and looking for all possible failure points in any possible future. Spend time running those scenarios occasionally -- like the hurricane prediction models they call spaghetti models -- but focus on the cone, if that makes sense.


WRT #2 above, I think people [here] sometimes feel embarrassed by their big life choices because those choices limit their ERE prospects (by that I mean choice of partner, location, occupation, etc). Don't confuse life choices with financial choices. Yes, there is some overlap. OTOH, money is only one part of the equation -- those other choices narrow the field but don't necessarily preclude ERE. For most people, I'd argue that those initial choices might help people pursue ERE because they narrow one's choices enough to wrap their head around ERE. They are then also more likely to experience satisfaction, not sacrifice, after making those choices.*

Limiting your choices doesn't mean ignoring your desires. If you know you want X, then find the best X ... that's not the same as looking at the entire alphabet first and deciding you want X, then beginning the process of finding the best X. Following your desires and/or examining your motivation for them is not the same as decision-making.

I think the way we tend to frame ERE -- as a kind of freedom that gives us infinite choices in what we can do -- is paralyzing and sets us up for disappointment. I prefer to think of it as the freedom to make a decision now *and* the ability to change my mind and make another decision later if desires or circumstances change. It's important to limit choices when making decisions, but ERE gives you peace of mind because you know you have the resources to make a different choice if it doesn't work out. **

I guess my main point is that by limiting choices, you'll save your decision energy for the consequential ones and ultimately end up more satisfied no matter what you decide. I'll post more references when I get the chance.



* I've rewritten this paragraph a number of times and still can't get it quite right. Hopefully, it's clear enough. Sorry.

** I think it's hard for people to understand ERE when they see life as linear (biological life is linear, experiential life is not). They would also then see decisions as permanent instead of seeing the 'web' and how those decisions are all just parts of a functioning system, the best of which allows for changing out the parts as desired without bringing the whole thing crashing down.

Seppia
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Re: Limit your choices

Post by Seppia » Sun Dec 09, 2018 9:27 am

I'm a huge proponent of keeping things simple (could be both a consequence and a cause of limiting choices).
So much that when I lived in the USA guys on my team would anticipate me when I stared at them and say "a-keep it simpel" with a thick Italian accent :D

So many people overthink things, the rules I follow every day are very basic:

1- avoid doing stupid stuff.
one very bad decision can negate the benefits of years of efforts.

2- be fair/have integrity
I've found it always pays in the long run. I really believe it.
The moment I stop to believe this, I'll go live in a hut in the mountains.

3- taking a second best decision is often better than no decision at all.
It gets things moving, it stops you from killing your self with "what is best?", it shows others you're a leader and keeps them motivated.
Nothing is worse than dealing with someone who can't take a damn decision.

Unrelated: jp I really miss your political updates, hopefully one day you'll have a bit of spare time to give us more of them :)
Your topics and posts are always top quality, thanks a lot for being on this board

henrik
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Re: Limit your choices

Post by henrik » Sun Dec 09, 2018 9:43 am

Reminds me of this old article from The Economist
https://www.economist.com/christmas-spe ... you-choose

7Wannabe5
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Re: Limit your choices

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Sun Dec 09, 2018 10:52 am

I swing back and forth on this issue :lol:

As Seppia implied, and as is strongly argued in "Atomic Habits" ( a very good book I am reading in an effort to get myself out of my current slump), indecision or the tendency to stay forever in planning mode, gives you the illusion of being in motion without actually having to take any action. This can be related to fear of failure, but also fear of success.

Since there is no such thing as pure will-power, limiting your choices really amounts to constructing, maintaining and reconstructing your environment so that better decision making is the default.

OTOH, to the extent that any given lifestyle is like an economy, it is necessary to engage in trade at the margin as well as long-term-investment in order to thrive. For instance, by not making a decision on a lease for the year, I leave open the possibility that I can secure housing that averages less expense than lowest acceptable year-long lease.

So, it seems to me that there are possibilities for dysfunctional risk aversion in leaving too many options open, but also in locking down possibilities. So, some other method of analysis must apply.

Semi-related note would be I have been questioning why I almost always feel a sense of relief when I end a big relationship. It's like this huge glacier falls off the side of my To-Do list and I am once again free. Terrible thing to think, but it sometimes seems to me that having a husband or significant BF is only second worse to having a Boss.

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Re: Limit your choices

Post by Solvent » Sun Dec 09, 2018 11:13 am

On 4, which you didn't elaborate a lot on... Remember, comparison is the thief of joy. Even if it's only in your head. If you have a million choices, you're always comparing your outcomes to what may have happened if you'd chosen something else... Locking yourself in to fewer choices means you do less comparison to 'what-ifs' in your head.

ThisDinosaur
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Re: Limit your choices

Post by ThisDinosaur » Sun Dec 09, 2018 11:36 am

https://fhww.files.wordpress.com/2018/0 ... rwhelm.pdf
Posting this again because its relevant.
Tim Ferriss wrote:Considering options costs attention that cannot be spent on action.
Attention is a finite resource. It's often better to make suboptimal choices quickly vs. over optimized choices slowly.

Caveat; this advice only applies to people who tend to ruminate and second guess themselves. Impulsive people need the exact opposite advice. But very few impulsive people would be expected to be reading a forum for savers and planners.

7Wannabe5
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Re: Limit your choices

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Sun Dec 09, 2018 11:53 am

This Dinosaur wrote: But very few impulsive people would be expected to be reading a forum for savers and planners.
ENTP
ENTPs can definitely be impulsive people, since they don’t want to be held back in any way. They want to feel free to jump head first into things, so that they can really learn and discover what it is all about. ENTPs are curious people who love being able to absorb knowledge in their own way. They are motivated by their desire to learn and challenge themselves to improve. ENTPs might be impulsive sometimes, but that is only because they want to push themselves outside of their comfort zone.
INTJ
INTJs are not impulsive people, and prefer to really think things through before walking into them. They can become frustrated with other people who simply make decisions impulsively, since it leads to many mistakes. INTJs would rather think things through and take a lot of time to properly plan for their future. They are intelligent people, who are looking to build a better life for themselves and even the people they care for. INTJs know that in order to have the things they want, they need to go after them with a smart plan and plenty of facts in their head.
https://personalitygrowth.com/heres-how ... lity-type/

Note that INTPs are also more impulsive, so approximately half of Rationals and Idealists tend towards impulsivity, rather than decisiveness NJ.

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Re: Limit your choices

Post by 2Birds1Stone » Sun Dec 09, 2018 12:03 pm

Hi, jp. Very insightful post, I wanted to thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on this topic.

Having experienced some of that analisys paralisys myself, do you suggest sticking to a choice/decision your past self has made when they were in a different state of mind?

Specific example is pulling the trigger on ERE. I know quite a few of us are on the cusp of pulling the trigger and getting off of the corporate teet, yet we find excuses to postpone action due to the absurd amound of decisions to be made once we break the status quo.

ThisDinosaur
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Re: Limit your choices

Post by ThisDinosaur » Sun Dec 09, 2018 12:05 pm

7Wannabe5 wrote:
Sun Dec 09, 2018 10:52 am
Since there is no such thing as pure will-power, limiting your choices really amounts to ...
... your environment so that better decision making is the default.
Is this true though? I think both components are real; situational psychology and will power. I can sense differences in my own willpower at different times.

Amphetamine users and manic bipolar people are notoriously productive. So, there is some material physiological component of willpower.

fiby41
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Re: Limit your choices

Post by fiby41 » Sun Dec 09, 2018 12:10 pm

Law in most countries allow for a limited number of wives at a time so at some point you have to choose..

RealPerson
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Re: Limit your choices

Post by RealPerson » Sun Dec 09, 2018 12:15 pm

2Birds1Stone wrote:
Sun Dec 09, 2018 12:03 pm
...Specific example is pulling the trigger on ERE. I know quite a few of us are on the cusp of pulling the trigger and getting off of the corporate teet, yet we find excuses to postpone action due to the absurd amound of decisions to be made once we break the status quo.
This! I see so much handwringing on this forum. If you keep analyzing you will never retire. If you make an analysis and you are ready for FI/RE just do it. There will never be a perfect time. Remember, those years lost will never come back. BTW loved the video JP. Thanks for posting.

7Wannabe5
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Re: Limit your choices

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Sun Dec 09, 2018 12:23 pm

This Dinosaur wrote:Amphetamine users and manic bipolar people are notoriously productive. So, there is some material physiological component of willpower.
Well, I am cyclothymic myself, and I don't think of manic energy as being akin to "will-power", because when you are manic you can't not do it. OTOH, I have often wondered if that state of being, even inclusive of consequent messes, doesn't beat the alternative of functional depression even though functional depression seems much closer to normal observed behavior of most people in modern society. IOW, going one step beyond Ferriss, it might even be the case that taking action on rapid series of random decisions might beat lesser action attached to theoretically better decisions.

Further interesting (to me) thought would be that maybe exercise involving/promoting rapid decision making would have potential for flipping a person into more manic state.

FBeyer
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Re: Limit your choices

Post by FBeyer » Sun Dec 09, 2018 1:14 pm

fiby41 wrote:
Sun Dec 09, 2018 12:10 pm
Law in most countries allow for a limited number of wives at a time so at some point you have to choose..
Now consider how many people are still worrying whether they chose right...

ThisDinosaur
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Re: Limit your choices

Post by ThisDinosaur » Sun Dec 09, 2018 3:05 pm

7Wannabe5 wrote:
Sun Dec 09, 2018 12:23 pm
I don't think of manic energy as being akin to "will-power", because when you are manic you can't not do it.
Good insight. Mania is a compulsion to Do, Depression is a compulsion to Not Do.
Stimulant users have a compulsion to Do, and addiction to them is a constant battle to Not Do.

Variability in willpower may just be a temporary preference for action vs inaction.

7Wannabe5
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Re: Limit your choices

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Sun Dec 09, 2018 4:20 pm

Is it possible to make a decision, but not take an action?

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Dream of Freedom
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Re: Limit your choices

Post by Dream of Freedom » Sun Dec 09, 2018 4:31 pm

7Wannabe5 wrote:
Sun Dec 09, 2018 4:20 pm
Is it possible to make a decision, but not take an action?
You could decide not to act. You could even decide not to choose. ;)

BRUTE
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Re: Limit your choices

Post by BRUTE » Sun Dec 09, 2018 6:13 pm

isn't that a choice in and of itself? so meta.

classical_Liberal
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Re: Limit your choices

Post by classical_Liberal » Mon Dec 10, 2018 1:34 am

Thanks JP for the well thought out response! I'm glad this took off.

I'm very well aware of the paradox of choice, I've actually watched a ton of his stuff, including that video before. I'm sold on the idea, including your points. However, I've found it difficult resolve to change. I wonder what actionable ideas wrt desensitization might exist, or maybe how do others minimize options to begin with? Also curious to read if anyone thinks some or all of the paradox of choice theory is wrong.

Personally, I'm pretty good at picking my battles. Small decisions are no problem, and I prefer to limit choices on those. I'm also a minimalist, so I get something that works and stick with it, almost to a fault. However, big decisions are an issue. I can't seem to realize that most of them lack permanence. Potentially closing the door to possibilities as a result of them makes me downright nervous. The faults @JP brings up on #2 & #5 are an exact representation of my current issues, but this is not new and not only related to ERE.

To make things stranger, serious decisions that have urgency (like what I face at work with dire life altering consequences) are usually pretty easy for me to make.

Currently, the best ideas I've read is to try and create some sense of urgency with major decisions, and I also like @seppias idea to just make a decision and move on it. Adjust along the way, one decision breeds more (Still though, that first one!).
jennypenny wrote:
Sun Dec 09, 2018 8:10 am
Limiting your choices doesn't mean ignoring your desires...
This is interesting itself, but also in relation to decision making. I'm fairly convinced that I (and most humans) are pretty crappy predictors wrt what will make us happy. We are regular users of chronesthesia, but we usually get it wrong. I think a far more productive habit is removing things we know are making us unhappy in the present. Maybe limiting major decisions to "What should I remove from my life presently, or in the near future", is more effective than trying add things that may improve things?

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Re: Limit your choices

Post by fiby41 » Mon Dec 10, 2018 8:48 am

Freedom Through Commitment
Consumer culture is very good at making us want more, more, more. Underneath all the hype and marketing is the implication that more is always better. I bought into this idea for years. Make more money, visit more countries, have more experiences, be with more women.
But more is not always better. In fact, the opposite is true. We are actually often happier with less. When we’re overloaded with opportunities and options, we suffer from what psychologists refer to as the paradox of choice. Basically, the more options we’re given, the less satisfied we become with whatever we choose, because we’re aware of all the other options we’re potentially forfeiting.
So if you have a choice between two places to live and pick one, you’ll likely feel confident and comfortable that you made the right choice. You’ll be satisfied with your decision.
But if you have a choice among twenty-eight places to live and pick one, the paradox of choice says that you’ll likely spend years agonizing, doubting, and second-guessing yourself, wondering if you really made the “right” choice, and if you’re truly maximizing your own happiness. And this anxiety, this desire for certainty and perfection and success, will make you unhappy.
So what do we do? Well, if you’re like I used to be, you avoid choosing anything at all. You aim to keep your options open as long as possible. You avoid commitment.
But while investing deeply in one person, one place, one job, one activity might deny us the breadth of experience we’d like, pursuing a breadth of experience denies us the opportunity to experience the rewards of depth of experience.
There are some experiences that you can have only when you’ve lived in the same place for five years, when you’ve been with the same person for over a decade, when you’ve been working on the same skill or craft for half your lifetime. Now that I’m in my thirties, I can finally recognize that commitment, in its own way, offers a wealth of opportunity and experiences that would otherwise never be available to me, no matter where I went or what I did.
When you’re pursuing a wide breadth of experience, there are diminishing returns to each new adventure, each new person or thing. When you’ve never left your home country, the first country you visit inspires a massive perspective shift, because you have such a narrow experience base to draw on. But when you’ve been to twenty countries, the twenty-first adds little. And when you’ve been to fifty, the fifty-first adds even less.
The same goes for material possessions, money, hobbies, jobs, friends, and romantic/sexual partners—all the lame superficial values people choose for themselves. The older you get, the more experienced you get, the less significantly each new experience affects you. The first time I drank at a party was exciting. The hundredth time was fun. The five hundredth time felt like a normal weekend. And the thousandth time felt boring and unimportant.
The big story for me personally over the past few years has been my ability to open myself up to commitment. I’ve chosen to reject all but the very best people and experiences and values in my life. I shut down all my business projects and decided to focus on writing full-time. Since then, my website has become more popular than I’d ever imagined possible. I’ve committed to one woman for the long haul and, to my surprise, have found this more rewarding than any of the flings, trysts, and one-night stands I had in the past. I’ve committed to a single geographic location and doubled down on the handful of my significant, genuine, healthy friendships.
And what I’ve discovered is something entirely counterintuitive: that there is a freedom and liberation in commitment. I’ve found increased opportunity and upside in rejecting alternatives and distractions in favor of what I’ve chosen to let truly matter to me.
Commitment gives you freedom because you’re no longer distracted by the unimportant and frivolous. Commitment gives you freedom because it hones your attention and focus, directing them toward what is most efficient at making you healthy and happy. Commitment makes decision-making easier and removes any fear of missing out; knowing that what you already have is good enough, why would you ever stress about chasing more, more, more again? Commitment allows you to focus intently on a few highly important goals and achieve a greater degree of success than you otherwise would.
In this way, the rejection of alternatives liberates us—rejection of what does not align with our most important values, with our chosen metrics, rejection of the constant pursuit of breadth without depth.
Yes, breadth of experience is likely necessary and desirable when you’re young—after all, you have to go out there and discover what seems worth investing yourself in. But depth is where the gold is buried. And you have to stay committed to something and go deep to dig it up. That’s true in relationships, in a career, in building a great lifestyle—in everything.
~ the subtle art of not giving a fuck by Mark Manson

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Re: Limit your choices

Post by jacob » Mon Dec 10, 2018 12:21 pm

http://earlyretirementextreme.com/why-i ... g-out.html

This sounds like "Simple Living" which is different from minimalism, the latter being a modern and more thing-oriented pursuit.

From a larger perspective, humans often lock themselves in precisely so as to avoid the mental cost of freedom (of choice). Looking around there are lots of examples where choices are made in order to reduce optionality rather than increase it. Marriage was mentioned above. Another example is when people retire and then go back to work when/if having to generate their own daily structure is overwhelming.

Add: Thinking more about it, it seems more along the line of "limit your commitments". Each commitment comes with responsibilities and the older you get (presuming you don't tread water) the more you sign up for. This typically happens at a faster rate than old commitments are dropped. For example, I make an active effort not to sign up for stuff online or close things down when I no longer use them, but nevertheless I have accounts at ~50 different sites. (That's way more than I thought.) I also think (perhaps erroneously again) that I used to have fewer accounts in the past. A commitment can be anything. If I own a tool with metal parts, I'm now responsible for battling rust formation. If I own floors, I'm responsible for cleaning them. If I publish a book on amazon, I'm apparently forever responsible for fixing typos.

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