It’s tempting to try to keep your options open. People often assume that having more options is equivalent to having more freedom. But actually the opposite tends to be true when it comes to making aligned decisions. When you keep your options too open, you keep your standards too low.

When people have too many options to intelligently assess, they tend to settle for choices that are good enough but not great.

But when you narrow the range to a few options that you can reasonably consider one by one, you’re more likely to go for the best choice, at least among those options.

Consider buying a new piece of tech. If you’re only considering two or three models, it’s easier to identify the best one for your needs. But if you have hundreds or thousands of options available, picking the optimal one for you seems hopeless.

This is a common issue when it comes to finding an aligned career path or an aligned relationship. When you have too few constraints, you have too many options. This can make you feel doubtful or even paralyzed about making a decent decision.

It may seem counterintuitive to narrow your options by adding more constraints, but it works well in practice, especially when you choose constraints that elevate your standards.

When I’m ready to buy a new phone, laptop, tablet, or watch, for instance, I’m only going to consider Apple products. I’ve been using products in their ecosystem for many years, and I’m pleased with them. So when making such purchase decisions, I wouldn’t consider stepping outside the Apple space unless something goes really wrong. My last 4 phones, last 3 laptops, last 4 tablets, and last 3 watches were all iPhones, MacBook Pros, iPads, and Apple Watches, respectively.

This simple constraint creates a pathway to investing more deeply in a relationship with Apple too. I’m on a first-name basis with a member of the business team at the local Apple Store, and she regularly arranges discounts for me. So constraints can lead to more depth and efficiency for related future decisions.

What about finding an intimate relationship partner? First consider how to rule out partial matches and mismatches.

For me to be deeply involved with a woman, she must be a committed vegan. She has to be interested in open relationships. She has to be into D/s play. She must be into personal growth. By narrowing the vast field of possibilities down to a relatively small number of options, I can eliminate many risks related to partial matches, such as the risk of over-investing in a connection that isn’t going to work well.

If you want to date around a lot and aren’t feeling too particular, you can keep your options open, but you may find that approach dissatisfying or disappointing after a while. When you’d rather find a really strong match to invest in, add more constraints to narrow your options and raise your standards. It may surprise you how well this works, especially by helping you quickly decline partial matches.

Same goes for career options and income-generating opportunities. Start by eliminating options that aren’t fascinating, stimulating, and fun. Rule out whatever doesn’t feel purposeful and heart-aligned. Drop ideas that aren’t likely to be highly lucrative. Dump the possibilities that aren’t creative and growth-oriented. Keep narrowing your options till you start wondering if your standards might be too high.

In this particular area, I found it helpful to establish a minimum standard for considering business deals. For a while I didn’t consider any deal that would be worth less than $10K. Eventually I bumped that to $20K. Later I held it around $50K for a while. These days I tend not to bother considering business deals or projects unless they’re financially worth $100K or more. And on top of that, they still have to be fun, creative, stimulating, purposeful, etc.

Interestingly, this makes life easier and improves the odds of discovering really good options. It keeps me from getting bogged down in partial matches.

When thinking about relationship matches, consider the perspective of a really good match who’s looking for someone just like you. Does it make sense for them to remain receptive to less than what you can offer? I’d rather connect with a vegan who’s looking for a fellow vegan, not a vegan with lower standards. Would you rather be what someone is looking for… or what they’re settling for?

You may not be sure about how to identify or recognize an optimal solution, but what can you be pretty sure about? Start by adding some constraints where you are confident in your desires. Relationship-wise I can say it wouldn’t work out if I tried to get seriously involved with a non-vegan woman – our ethics and values wouldn’t align well enough. That by itself isn’t enough to guarantee a good match, but it’s an easy way to rule out a large swath of partial matches.

What are some equivalents for you? What constraints would help to steer you closer to a really strong match and away from partial matches?

If you do this right, you’re going to turn off partial matches. Some may feel a bit miffed that you’re excluding them without giving them a chance. But you’re also doing them a favor. You’re making it clear that you wouldn’t be a good investment in some dimension of life, so you’re saving them time, energy, and false hope. If you want to clarify your investment worthiness for an aligned option, you’d better be willing to disappoint partial matches up front. The smarter ones will actually respect you for this preventative no.

Aim for true success here. Don’t waffle on what you really want. Don’t pre-settle for less. Challenge your brain to figure out how to invite and experience what you really want. Start by ruling out whatever would feel a bit dissatisfying or disappointing – whatever feels like settling. What’s the relationship or career equivalent of a sad Android phone? 😉

Constraints are very freeing – they free you of the nasty traps of partial matches.