The Paradox of Choice


86. The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less by Barry Schwartz

This was a very interesting look at how, while no choice is definitely bad, too much choice can almost as detrimental to our psychological well-being. Schwartz examines the differences between maximizers, who attempt to get the absolute best of everything, and satisficers, who are willing to settle for good enough. Good enough could very well be high quality, but satisficers are all right with the idea that there may still be something out there that is even better. Maximizers are bothered by this, and have difficulty making choices, since there are always more options available that might be better.

I tend to fall on the satificer end of the scale for most things, but there are some exceptions. I have a hard time picking a meal in a restaurant, for instance, because I can’t decide which one will be the best experience. This book was an interesting look at how unlimited choice can make us less happy with what we have, and I picked up some good tips for being satisfied with my life, even though the tips themselves weren’t anything I hadn’t heard before. Having more of an explanation behind them makes it easier to apply these ideas to my life.

Interestingly enough, one place where I notice a tendency to maximize is choosing a book to read. Sometimes I go right from one book to the next, but I often find myself, at the end of one book, staring at my bookshelves, trying to pick the perfect book that I will enjoy the most at that particular time. Usually, if I just can’t choose, I decide it is a sign that I am simply ready for a break from reading (!), but more often I have to remind myself that I bought these books because they looked good to me, and force myself to take the leap into one of those books. And, when I do, it usually turns out well–I may buy a lot of books, but I am fairly discerning. It’s not my fault that there are so many good books out there!

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