Wednesday, 17 July 2013

How to make a decision in a world with so much choice

In Ted Talks, Barry Schwartz discusses The Paradox of Choice. He comments that the more choices we have, the harder it is to choose. Some of us become paralyzed by this choice and are unable to make any decision. When we do choose, we’re less likely to be happy with what we have, because we can imagine the alternatives we didn’t choose. The more alternatives there are, the higher our expectations. The more likely that one of those options must be perfect.

Schwartz claims that the secret of happiness is this: low expectations.

Well, I don’t see how I can ask for less choices please. When I stand in the wine section pretending I know anything about regions and grapes and bottle shapes, I can hardly say: could you just hide a few of them?

There’s no escape from decision making, or from choice. So there has to be a way to turn it to your advantage. Maybe you have to throw away the idea of the “right" choice and instead have fun with how many wines there are to taste, how many types of food to try, how many countries to visit, how many people to meet.

Then again, some decisions you can only make once. Those are the ones you should think about. Are you going to talk to that person? Or let them get off the bus. Are you going to end something that’s not working, knowing you can’t then get it back?

But even these decisions can be remade. Not in the same place, with the same person. But with someone else on another bus, another person, another place, but the same thing: opportunity.

What really counts, are the decisions you make over time. The ones that add up to how you spend your time, your life. To quote from the film Cloud Atlas:

"Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others. Past and present. And by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future."

To see Barry Schwartz on Ted Talks click here.

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