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I’ve been struggling for years with the problem of how to expose other people to what I see as their better options, or at least other options. It seems like it would be an easy thing to simply suggest a better way to do some simple thing, and any sane person would instantly choose that way of doing their task; but, no. Clearly this isn’t so. It is obvious that a great many people, I would say everyone, don’t respond in an optimum way to use their personal opportunities. They always see the complicating factors, and so it is the cautious person who is left behind in the great human race to do practical things. Generally these losers will claim it is too much work, and besides it’s too risky, and probably won’t work anyway. It is simply easier to do something else, and then watch TV, or play computer games, or if they are physically inclined, to go hiking or take a trip. I know, I’ve been there too.

It seems the prime motivating factor for people is to do things that they think their personal friends will value. Unfortunately, what people believe others will respect is what they seek, like having a nicer car, a more expensive home, and a more beautiful wife. That of course is an endless escalator of expectations that can never be satisfied, because as soon as you satisfy one desire another one creeps in to goad you on to something you believe your new friends will value even more highly. Part of the trap for most people is to spend as much money getting these better things as their credit will allow. Of course there is a huge industry of intelligent, highly trained and motivated people pushing their morals and the law to their limits in an effort to get people to spend their artificial credit-money on things these sales people have that they insist you need and want.

I’m thinking what needs to be done is to have alternate things to do with their time, money, and energy that are available at the decision points. That is opposite to what is the usual case where the decision is more like, “Do you want this pretty little bauble, or do you want to disappoint your wife and your friends and then live a life of worthlessness and despair?” Imagine going down the cereal aisle in a modern grocery store where there are hundreds of different breakfast cereals on display. It has been shown to be much easier to choose between a few cereals than a whole row of them, so people just end up seeking out what is familiar to them. But, to a person who doesn’t have a ready choice, their choice becomes, “Do I want something in this category, or not?” With that kind of binary choice it becomes easy to simply reject the whole aisle, and walk away without any cereal.

Opening up this easier kind of choice removes the confusion and empowers the person to be more rational about the qualities of the whole category. Thus, they have a better overview and can make a better choice. They either want something in the whole category or they don’t, but if they do, they want a specific thing with particular qualities, and not just the thing that gets hustled with the most sophistication. There are many things that can be evaluated this way, but the power of this idea is that of stepping back for a moment, deciding what is really valuable, and then going after something with those qualities.

You learn to expose yourself to better options by watching how others make choices.