Posted December 5, 2018

The Problem with Choice

I remember the first time I ever went to the Cheesecake Factory for dinner. It was in Paramus, New Jersey of all places. When we arrived, it was insanely busy being a Saturday, so once we made it to a table we were presented with a phone book for a menu.

There were so many options to choose from it took the group about a half hour to figure out what everyone wanted to eat, and I could only wonder after working in a small kitchen how large their freezers, fridges and prep areas had to be to have so many menu options while seating so many people. That or maybe they just had big freezers and microwaves like most of Gordon Ramsay’s fixer upper restaurants.

The element of choice may seem beneficial in many situations, but it can often lead to inaction and an inability to choose anything compared to a limited set of options.

The classic concept is one of Aesop’s fables, the fox and the cat. A fox and cat are both being chased by hounds. The fox boasts of knowing a hundred ways to escape, whereas the cat knows only one. As the hounds approach, the cat takes it’s one option, scurrying up the tree. The fox is paralyzed trying to choose which of his hundred options would be best, and in the end, waited too long to make a choice at all.

In 2000, Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper set up an experiment comparing sales between a display with 24 different kinds of jams outside of a high end shopping centre in California, compared with a display that had 6. If a customer sampled a jam they were given a coupon, and a “sale” was considered a successful sample and coupon.

The 6 choice display outsold the larger display by 10 to 1.

When faced with a lot of choices, the fear of choosing wrong can often lead to an inability to choose.

There are a lot of parallels to this concept and going to the gym, with seemingly endless options of exercises, goals, workout plans, challenges, and stuff to do. There’s so much going on it’s often overwhelming to many, which may lead to avoidance.

One of the chief responses I get when I ask people why they don’t exercise is they don’t know what they should do. There are so many choices, so many conflicting opinions, and so much mis information out there that they feel paralyzed by choice, so having someone outline a few simple things can take a large weight of their shoulders in terms of the burden of choice.

More is rarely better when it comes to choice

This may be one of the biggest overlooked selling features of personal training in that it eliminates the choice of what to do or not do. The client gets a plan, and only has to follow the plan, eliminating that pain of choice.

If you’re on the fence about starting to workout and feel overwhelmed by the number of exercises out there and the amount of choice, just remember that most exercises are composed of 7 basic patterns:

A Squat


A Lunge


A hip hinge


A Push


A Pull


A carry or gait pattern


And a Rotation


If your workout has a couple of these in it, you’re golden. If you want to put all of them into each workout, great. You don’t have to get too complicated with it, but try to get started versus finding the best option possible. If you keep looking for the best exercises to do, you might wind up choosing none, so keep the options closed and get to into it.

Also, if you want someone to take out the guess work for your own choices, you can get training with me HERE. I’ll take out the choices, you just get the program and follow along.