Menu

More Information is Not the Answer; More Action Is

Man thinking

“Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.” ~Bruce Lee

We live in a world where information is literally at our fingertips, twenty-four hours a day, every day. As wonderful as this can be, it can also lead to a number of challenges.

With so much information available to us it can be difficult to know which way is up.

The more we read, the more confused we become.

One source makes a logical argument for one way to do something. Then we read a completely opposing view that is backed by another logical sounding theory.

This can lead to us freezing. Like a sprinter waiting too long in the blocks for the gun to go off, we have lost the ability to react. We have lost the ability to go.

Too Many Choices Can Lead to No Choice

Too many options and choices laid out in front of us can lead to a strange problem where we struggle to make any choice at all.

What should be a positive suddenly turns to a negative. We’re worried that choosing means we miss out on something else. Or that our choice will not be the perfect choice.

Distraction Attraction

The floodgates of information can cause their own form of addictive behavior. We have become attracted to distracted. Constantly checking for updates and new information. Obsessively checking for the latest word from this expert or that.

Strangely this constant activity feels like progress. The truth is we’re busy, but we’re not focused. Nothing much is getting done.

The Answer – Positive Constraints Followed by Action

Another road that can be taken is one where we deliberately limit our choices. We commit to choosing from a more limited pool of information, then we follow through with a healthy dose of action.

If this works out well, we stay committed to the choice. If not, we go back and choose something else that will work for us. Importantly, we don’t jump around just because there is more on the table.

Ironically, limiting choice can improve our chances of actually making a choice at all. We put the mental blinkers on and fully commit to what is in front of us instead of flitting from this to that looking for perfect.

Personal Experience – Subtraction

In my own case, I have benefitted from limiting choice in several areas of my life.

My fitness is something that is very important to me. However, I can read too much on what I should be doing by this fitness expert or that. This can lead to confusion and frustration when these experts contradict each other.

With my training this has led to me chopping and changing programmes too often and not giving a particular program or exercise time to work its magic.

Worse, I’ve also tried to perform exercises, or follow programs, that are not a good fit for my goals, just because a particular expert says they are “must do” moves.

With the above in mind, I now limit the information channels I read—fewer fitness blogs, fewer magazines. Instead, I dig deeper into a few sources that I get most enjoyment/benefit from.

In terms of my actual training, I have limited my exercise selection down to a small pool of big return exercises that suit my body, temperament, and goals.

Importantly, these are exercises I also enjoy trying to perfect over the long term, and that seem to do my body good. I find them challenging but equally I am happy to do them again and again, with no sense of dread.

This has left me enjoying my workouts more, results in less confusion, and provides more focus on the goal at hand—a winning combination!

An Experiment for You

If you struggle with too many choices at times, try the following:

1. Choose from a restricted menu.

Over the next few weeks, stay focused on limiting choices in one area of your life. This could be the blogs you read, the foods you eat, or anything in between.

Using diet and the foods we eat as an example, it could mean for the following few weeks you will choose to eat only plant based foods. No meat at all.

Whatever it is, intentionally limit your choices in this area. Focus on a few options only, the ones that are likely to give you maximum enjoyment or results in relation to others.

2. Block out distractions.

Once you have your small pool of choices to work from in your chosen area, block everything else out. This will not be easy initially and will require discipline, but it is essential.

Carrying on our example above of changing our diet, if we’re going plant-based for a few weeks as an experiment, we will ensure all meat products are removed from our home. We will tell friends what we are doing so others know to prepare us plant based fare only if we visit and, if at a restaurant, we only look at the vegetarian options on menus. Out of sight, out of mind.

We need to cultivate some selective ignorance for this to work. Ignore the strong temptation to let the information floodgates remain fully open.

3. Commit.

Fully commit to your choice. Enjoy it, explore it, and revel in the process of making it.

4. Review—did it work?

Is your choice having the desired effect?

In our example of intentionally reducing food choices to plant-based only, are you feeling better and more energized? Have you lost some fat? Are you feeling and looking healthier?

If not, it’s time to go back to your limited pool of choices and try something else.

Maybe in this example we add a fish or meat dish once or twice a week only, start the process again, and re-evaluate. Maybe we try staying meatless longer but adding more protein sources, or varying our foods a little more (more green veggies etc.).

The important thing is we give our choice time to work, rather than staying stuck in making no decisions or in flitting from one thing to another.

An Information-Driven World

The world has been opened up to us with the technology now at our fingertips. That should be a wonderful thing if we use it appropriately. How we use it is up to us.

Try intentionally limiting choice for a while and see if it helps you get out of the blocks.

Sometimes less really can be more.

About Carl Phillips

Carl writes short books full of big ideas. He is also the proud owner of Frictionless Living which is focused on helping readers find and live their own version of a simpler, good, life.

See a typo, an inaccuracy, or something offensive? Please contact us so we can fix it!
  • Tim MagicYou

    Absolutely Carl. Thank you for this great thought (and action!) provoking article.
    I see people everywhere I go – plugged into their screens, filling in valuable nothing to do time with screens.
    Even at work, emails, intranets, social media, but what results, what goals are they working towards ?

    Just as over eating leads to obesity and inactivity, lets help our minds stay fit and responsive by reminding ourselves that Information is here to help us to take action towards where we want to be.

  • Hi Tim,

    Thanks for the comments and really pleased to hear you enjoyed the post.

    I agree and I like your analogy. Technology, as wonderful as it is, is there to serve us not the other way around.

  • Andrea

    This is a fantastic post – and something I can certainly identify with. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, too, which just adds to the chaos. I feel like if I’m not reading EVERYTHING then I’m obviously missing something important. I’m going to try your tips 🙂

  • Hi Andrea,

    Thanks so much for the kind comments!

    I feel your pain, sometimes we have to know when enough information is enough and just get out of the blocks. We need to recognise procrastination in ourselves and learn to move through it.

    Perfect doesn’t really exist but often our best can be good enough to surprise even ourselves.

    Hope some of the actions work out for you and keep me posted. 😉

  • I am going to try the experiment – I think it is a great idea! I definitely live in a world of overload, and have needed to take a step back from that and start actually living life.
    I recently deactivated my Facebook for a full week and truly liberated by the lack of scrolling through endless posts. I suddenly had so much more time on my hands to accomplish other things! And now, my Facebook is activated again, but I am a lot more mindful (and limiting) of the amount of time I spend on the site.

  • Hi Carrie,

    Glad you got something from the post. These are lessons learned the hard way for me and I still have to fight the tendency to ‘research’ a little too much, as we all do in the information age.

    Your example is a great one. We often don’t realise how much we’re being sucked in until we take a step back. Identifying the overload, being mindful and then setting positive constraints around how we use information is the key, as you say.

    Glad to hear you’re on a path that is working for you and I wish you well with that. Keep on fighting the good fight. 😉

  • Andrea

    Will do 🙂 Thanks again.

  • Thanks so much and same to you – like you said, it is something that we have to stay mindful of always.