Modern choices, wiser choices
The modernity of choosing less over excess — and considered action
The word “less” immediately has us thinking of minimalism. This is not that kind of article, though. The following is about thoughtful selection, energy and resources well spent, yes, maybe even about focus. Ultimately, it’s about modern choices, possibly wiser choices. But definitely about choices that are more sustainable to our work, our business and our lives.
Why this topic and why now?
Because the global balance is readjusting from too much (of pretty much everything) toward selectively and just enough (hopefully).
The status quo
Pandemic, economic struggle, social upheaval, human resignation, war, energy crisis. Although this new decade is already marked by more extremes than we could have imagined, it shouldn’t surprise us.
From the 1980s to the 2010s, modern life was on an exponential winning (and growth) streak thanks to globalization, mass media and the internet. In a business context, the run to new innovation, shorter product life spans, a diversifying communication landscape and increased content turn-over (more often, on more channels) has led to diffused brand messaging, exponential spendings, and an increasingly growing and intransparent content industry.
Environmental implications aside, the “race for more” eventually began bleeding from business into our personal lives.
As individuals, reaching our professional and life goals, and living the best life possible as our best selves, has led to an entire generation either thinking of or quite literally “opting out” — something that hasn’t occurred at mass scale since the 1920s. Here, too, career has become a business in itself with personal branding, networking, and self-publication or social media influence an integral part of “making it”.
But there is a limit to our hustle, both as businesses and individuals, and I believe we’re experiencing the signals of having reached it.
At war with too many options
Two examples that embody this:
I have been trying to buy new sneakers for two years now. There are so many options, so many color ways that it leaves me literally stunned. (For context: I am usually a very decisive shopper.) When I do finally purchase a pair, I receive them only to question if that pair among the hundreds was really the best choice. I eventually return them. (Writing this I have a pair of adidas lying on the living room floor, waiting for my final “yay or nay”…)
Another example is social media presence, both as an individual or business. With so many channels that “you just have to be on”, so many potential places to connect with and woo customers or peers, you either spend endless hours adapting content to each platform (time and money investments high), or end up neglecting some inadvertently.
[Full disclosure: I speak from experience. My twitter profile and I have a redundant-bored-annoyed relationship with one another. I’ve realized that it’s not my medium. Yet, I haven’t closed the profile yet because twitter is just “part of the mix”. Now that I’ve confessed this openly, maybe I’ll be able to pull the plug.]
It seems almost too obvious that the cure for our “war of choice” could be as simple as reducing the options, focusing on the relevant and investing more energy where it truly matters.
Let’s be blunt: There is so much we could and should be doing. Does that mean we have to, though?
Moving beyond options ad infinitum
More options should lead to more rigorous selection. I have condensed this into three questions that have helped me make more conscious choices:
Clearly state your intention: What is necessary in fulfilling my intention? And what deserves more of my attention and energy? (Notice here that I do not ask about goals or objectives, distancing myself from the typical template and opening myself to a new thought process.)
Shape your journey: What set of actions are relevant, necessary and realistic? What actions have the greatest impact on my work / career / business / sales?
Revisit often: What is working? What has changed? What needs to be replaced / rethought?
By framing this around the act of choice and choosing, the concept of less gains deeper meaning and moves beyond the typical superficiality of minimalism. It becomes about more intentional action, and the practice of paying attention to the signals and incorporating feedback and experimentation more deliberately.
As we begin to identify the necessary more easily, this not only calls for critical self-reflection, but also a good dose of realism and perspective — something we could all use more of these days.
Lastly, the practice of conscious selection proves sustainable to our individual (mental health), business (time and money) and global resources (environment, consumption). It is also in every sense modern and in going with the times: Times of inflation, crisis, shortage, excess, but also possibility, exploration, and re-imagining.
I spoke of balance earlier and I’d like to end on that note. After decades of growth and over-indulgence, is it that surprising that we are gravitating toward the simple? It’s already reflected in minimalism, the capsule wardrobe, the brand blueprint, detox retreats or the tiny house movement, just to name a few.
So, do we have what it takes to make modern choices less about having it all and more about considered, sustainable action? I believe we do. After all, the ball’s already moving.