The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less by Barry Schwartz

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Outlines that virtually any decision we try to make now has so many potential options, often too many and if we are not careful we will not make any decisions. We as humans may like the idea of choice but are a lot worse due to the abundance of these, there are simply too many options to choose from.

Suggests society has changed too much due to choices now going to a doctor and the decision is reflected back to you which author argues is not great as people don’t necessarily make good choices. States most like the idea of choice, but the majority of cancer patients would rather the doctor selects the optimum treatment for them.

Mentions Thinking Fast and Slow and the endowment effect in which you value something more than it is objectively worth when you possess this and this can interfere with the choices you make.

The main point the book contains is splitting people into maximizers or satisfiers.

When a maximizer evaluates a decision they would like to explore every option, whereas a satisfier gives some thought then makes a decision. Maximizing tends to lead to great dissatisfaction, people miserable as there are too many options to make the best decision.

Maximisation is correlated with perfectionism however a perfectionist does not expect to achieve perfect where as a maximizer does expect and aim to achieve the best deal. This means that a maximizer is more likely to be depressed.

Note the same person can be a maximiser or a satisfier in different situations, it is domain specific. As in some aspects of your life you are likely to be a satisfier you can learn to use this mindset to select faster in relevant situations.

Make your decisions, stick with them and then practise gratitude about what went well rather than what could have gone better. By following your own rules and principles this can help you make decisions easier as these can facilitate eliminating some choices. This book also gives the example of being in a restaurant in which if you think deeply about what you ordered, then compare this to other people’s meals and this tends to lead to dissatisfaction. Personally have adopted a select quickly on gut feeling approach in restaurants, prior to reading this book, which works well.

Having predefined standards can help a decision making process, this allows you to eliminate options that don’t meet your standards.

Covers a bit about happiness and social comparison. In work if an unhappy person is working with and comparing themselves with a peer whom they are worse than they are less happy and slightly happier if they are better than their peer. Happy people are less effected by this being more content in themselves and less effected by social comparison. Try to curtail social comparison, we have a tendency to evaluate the quality of our experiences by comparing ourselves to others. Though social comparison can provide useful information, it often reduces our satisfaction. It is easier for a satisfier to avoid social comparison than for a maximizer, learning that “good enough” is good enough may automatically reduce concern with how others are doing

Adaptation – remember people adapt and get used to things, realise that the novelty wears off. Be aware if this so put the time and energy into deciding something accordingly. If you evaluate something it is easy to forget this point and think the benefit of acquiring the object will last longer than it does. Quotes Robert Lane “a tendency of every culture to persist in valuing the qualities that made it distinctively great long after they have lost their hedonic yield.”

A “chooser” is someone who can reflect on what makes a decision important, whether, perhaps, none of the options should be chosen, on whether a new option should be created. It is choosers who create new opportunities for themselves and everyone else. With overwhelming choice, we are forced to become “pickers,” relatively passive selectors from whatever is available. Being a chooser is better, but to have the time to choose more and pick less, we must be willing to rely on habits, customs, norms, and rules to make some decisions automatic.

Mitigate regret by

1. Adopting the standards of a satisfier rather than a maximizer.

2. Reducing the number of options we consider before making a decision.

3. Practising gratitude for what is good in a decision rather than focusing on our disappointments with what is bad.

4. Acknowledge that the thrill won’t be quite the same two months after you own it.

5. Spend less time looking for the perfect thing (maximizing), so that you won’t have huge search costs to be “amortized” against the satisfaction you derive from what you actually choose.

To manage the problem of excessive choice, we must decide which choices in our lives really matter and focus our time and energy there, letting many other opportunities pass us by. By restricting our options, we will be able to choose less and feel better. Aim for good enough.

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