I came across this great video about the “Paradox of Choice” in which Barry Schwartz, a sociology professor, eloquently explains how the vast freedom of choice that we have in today’s society is actually making us miserable.
Schwartz makes a variety of very good points and I wanted to point out the main ones, which I think are very telling:
When you have so many choices, making a decision becomes a big problem. You have so many different avenues or paths to choose from, that you become literally paralyzed by the sheer overwhelm of the situation. For example, I know many people that just don’t know what career to choose. There are so many things that they want to do, they can’t pick one, and thus they are standing still, never accomplishing anything. In that case, having less choices (less freedom in other words), would make it easier to make a decision and thus avoid experiencing paralysis.
When you have such a large number of options, it becomes very easy to position yourself to be disappointed, and thus regret the decision that you ended up making. I’ll give an example in my own life. A few years ago, I bought a car. However there was another I could have had that had an mp3 player option. It wasn’t available on the car I wanted in the end. To be honest, there were at least 5 other cars I could have bought because they had options I would have liked. So, this made me not fully appreciate my purchase. I got the car that best fit my needs at the time, but a part of me was wondering about those other cars and those other features I could have enjoyed. I still think about that mp3 player option! So, what Barry Schwartz says makes sense, if there were less options, I probably would have been more thrilled and happier about my purchase.
Rise of expectations
Also, what happens when you have so many options is that your expectations skyrocket. You now expect to have perfection. Now we all know nothing is or could ever be perfect, but this is what we train ourselves to want when we have so many options. We think that with such variety, we HAVE to find the perfect solution for us. I’ve often found myself in such a situation at the library for example. Out of all the thousands of books available, there MUST be that one book that is exactly what I am looking for. So whichever book I end up purchasing, my expectations are so high that the book could never live up to the hype that I’ve created about it in my own mind. The results…I’m not as thrilled about it as I expected myself to be.
So all this freedom that we have about choices, is it really something positive in our lives? Many valid arguments can be said about all the great things that the freedom of choice has given us throughout our existence, and we have to agree with many of these arguments. However, is it really making us happy? Isn’t happiness what we all seek? Maybe restrictions on our freedom could make us actually happier. It’s definitely something to ponder about, so check out the video below, it’s worth your time!