A Paralysis of Choice

Recently, I’ve been stuck. I’ve found myself struggling to get interested in just about anything. Movies, TV shows, video games, books, comics… you name it, I’m not enjoying it. I’ve started and stopped so many things the past few weeks it’s startling. It’s almost as if I’ve lost my focus and my drive to consume entertainment.

For some, this would not be a big deal, but for a guy like me who has always loved movies, books, and games, it brings up a lot of questions: When did I lose my love for the things that I enjoy and how did that happen? Is there something wrong with me? Did I grow out of all of these things? What do I replace them with?

I was discussing my frustration with my wife the other week and I told her I thought I might be suffering from a paralysis of choice. There are just so many things vying for my attention I think I just found myself struggling to fully commit to anything. Whenever I’d start a movie that I’ve already seen, I’d think about a movie I haven’t seen yet but would like. I think about the TV shows I want to catch up on so I can chat with my friends. I think about the games I want to revisit and the games I want to finally try out. I browse through hundreds of movies, over a hundred games and books and I just don’t know what to pick. I have way too choices at my fingertips. There is no friction between me and the entertainment and because of that it’s become almost valueless. I don’t hold it in my hands and it’s almost as if it doesn’t exist. It has no weight and is not tangible.

In contrast, when I think back to the early 2000’s, I think about how this was never a problem but boredom would sometimes creep in. I can’t not remember the last time I was bored. It’s been years.

Back then, I’d come home from work and maybe flip on the TV. If I didn’t find anything interesting, I’d browse my DVD shelf for a movie that I like. I’d re-watch one of these movies, or I’d explore the special features. I’d find new things to love about the film after hearing the director gush about the production on the commentary track. I’d find new actors that I liked based on their interviews and behind the scenes antics. I’d squeeze every DVD for every drop of entertainment and I’d enjoy every second of it.

If I didn’t want to watch something I already owned, I’d have to travel to the store to buy or rent something which was an adventure in itself. I’d be limited to the selection of a specific Blockbuster or Best Buy, but that was okay. I could always find something interesting to watch. I’d pay for a specific movie and by doing so enter a contract with myself to get value out of my dollar. I’d go home and give the movie and honest attempt at watching since this was all that I had. I’d give some movies more time to get going and sometimes I’d discover a hidden gem that just started out slow. Nowadays, I’ll turn a movie off in a heartbeat and just pick something else streaming. I always have a list of things to watch that I’m never going to catch up on.

You can substitute video game, book, magazine, etc. for the movie reference above. The point I’m trying to make is with limited choices I felt more empowered and the action seemed to have more value. I found myself getting excited about movies/games/books and really wanting to enjoy them. I didn’t look for the quick hit of entertainment because I wanted my enjoyment to last as long as possible. Nowadays I feel like I spend time rushing through things just so I can attack the next item on this never ending list of entertainment.

Part of my reasoning for wanting to have a clean slate to work from this year was to eliminate choices and streamline my thinking. I wanted to eliminate some of the noise and clutter. Being subscribed to several streaming services, having every song available on Spotify, having over 100 games available on my Playstation, and pretty much any book ever written a few clicks away has created a lot of noise. I don’t think the answer is to eliminate all my choices, but to really hone in on what I want to enjoy and focus solely on that. Take a sort of Hell Yes or Hell No approach to the media I consume. If I’m not super excited and would say Hell Yes to it, then I just need to let it go.

I’m going to try and utilize some self-control to help eliminate some of my choices. I’m going to attempt to focus on one video game at a time and play it until I’m completely done with it before moving onto something else. I’m going to remove all the ebooks from my Kobo and phone, except for the one book that I’m reading at any given point in time. I’m also going to try an embrace watching more movies. I enjoy TV but it feels very disposable to me. I find that I enjoy movies the most. It makes sense, that was what I always leaned towards growing up. I want to embrace my love of movies a bit more and really put some effort into finding that love and appreciation that I once had. I’m a movie guy, I just don’t think of myself as one. It’s time that I start embracing that and see movie watching as what it really is to me: a hobby.

I decided to start a new book from Nathan Lowell’s Smuggler Tales series since he’s arguably my favorite author. I’m working on my Spotify playlists. I’ve decided to focus on finishing up Super Mario World 3D with Brandy and I’m going to begin Mudrunner as the game I play on my own. I’m going to focus on writing a bit more and as my depression wavers, getting out of the house a bit more, even if it’s just to hit up thrift stores in search of movies. I’m also going to keep an eye open for a new hobby should I come across something interesting.

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