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The Problem of Choice - In times of COVID-19



Don’t we just love options to choose from? So many selections of ice-cream, clothes, restaurants, T.V. series and so on! As per some critics who believe that ‘free will’ exists, suggest that our options are unlimited and that we are just a moment away from choosing a whole another life for ourselves. Interesting, isn’t it?


So, when do options create havoc? Is it when we have too little to select from or too many? In truth, our options in itself are not problematic rather the conflict that arises from them becomes our issue. Kurt Lewin, a modern Social Psychologist suggested that we have three types of conflicts that arise from options. The conflict arises due to the end goal upon completion or selection of these options. The three types of options related conflicts are – Avoidance-Avoidance (occurs when both options are undesirable but have to choose anyway, e.g., doing household chores versus completion of work), Avoidance-Approach (occurs when one is desirable and the other is undesirable but requires completion, e.g., watching the new series or finishing pending work) and Approach-Approach (occurs when both options are desirable, e.g., selection between two types of favorite ice cream flavors).


In addition, apart from the combination of our preferences, ‘time’ also plays a crucial role in our lives and how it affects us. Think of the time when you had unlimited options present in front of you and you chose to ignore them. But the moment they were taken away, we felt the urgency for them and the need to choose. In truth, we wouldn’t have chosen most of the options but we like the idea of having a plethora of options to select from because it gives us a sense of purpose and control. So, when the options were present in front of us, we did not find them lucrative enough, and now that they are inaccessible, we find ourselves attracted to them!


This problem of choice pertains to the fact that we feel frustrated when our efforts to control our environment are thwarted. But the truth is we still have choices. These choices are just different from the original ones. We still have control over our surroundings. So, keeping aside our frustration and by tapping into our primal nature of adaptability, we can survive successfully! As humans, we have survived on this planet for thousands of years by adjusting and adapting to our environment. Over the years, we got used-to to having multiple options to choose from. We need to understand that although the current options in our life are limited in terms of time and space, they still exist, in different forms. And our choices during this period are extremely crucial for our own future. Every single choice made by you affects hundreds of others. Our lives are now riddled with responsibility of our actions to the brim. Therefore, choose wisely. Our lives are in your hands, quite literally.


- Sharmistha Banerjee

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