Stacy’s Book Note: The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less

Overwhelmed by too many choices

With the Holidays just around the corner, you’re likely to be overwhelmed with too many choices while shopping in addition to all things you need to do. Given this, I thought it was the perfect time to revisit a 2004 book The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less by Barry Schwartz, a psychologist at Swarthmore College.

Dr. Schwartz argues that having more options to choose is from ultimately makes us less satisfied with our choices. He believes that by limiting our freedom a bit, or eliminating choices, we can greatly reduce the stress, anxiety, and busyness in our lives.

He explains that weighing a large array of options is time-consuming, robbing us the opportunity to do things that could truly make us happy, like connecting with loved ones. In addition,…

“The effort that the decision requires detracts from the enjoyment derived from the results. Also, a large array of options may diminish the attractiveness of what people actually choose, the reason being that thinking about the attractions of some of the unchosen options detracts from the pleasure derived from the chosen one.”

Main take-away for shoppers overwhelmed by too many choices

If you need to shop for something, Dr. Schwartz recommends several strategies. I’ve summarized these into a few steps (that some newsletter subscribers may recall I’ve shared with them a few years ago):

  • Make sure that making this choice is worth your time and energy. If not, stop here.
  • Figure out the two or three key criteria that are most critical in this choice.
  • Selecting the first or second option that meets all of the above criteria.
  • Stop looking at any more options.
  • Don’t second guess but enjoy your choice and be thankful.

Main take-away for parents

While this book isn’t a parenting book, it reminds me of the wisdom of another psychologist, Donald Winnicott, who argued that parents be “good enough.” Likewise, Dr. Schwartz, poses an interesting question:

“We would be better off seeking what was “good enough” instead of seeking the best (have you ever heard a parent say, “I want only the ‘good enough’ for my kids”?)

How often have you said, “I only want the best for my child(ren)”? How would wanting what is “good enough” make life better for you?


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