The Paradox of Choice

When you walk into your local supermarket and if you’re like me, you’re completely overwhelmed by choice. Choice is everywhere. This has not always been the case, but it certainly is today.

With 175 types of salad dressing as part of the 150,000 options in an average supermarket, our choices are bountiful. But does all of this choice actually make us better? Does it help us? Well, it turns out it actually doesn’t.

Brilliant behavioural economists, like Barry Schwartz from Swarthmore College, spend their life analyzing exactly this. The paradox of choice is increasingly making us unhappy. It is affecting our well-being.

He explains that colleges today are like intellectual supermarkets. The liberal in liberal arts is now a collection of three or four hundred courses at many universities. How are young student to decide?

It turns out there are some steps that we can take to help us with this agony of choice. The following are a few steps that can help you make choices more easily. These steps will certainly increase your well-being. 

  1. Decide when you want to choose. Maybe a choice is not necessary.
  2. Use some discipline and choose between two or three options. That way, you remove Choice Hangover. The more choices that you consider, the more potential there is to compromise your well-being.
  3. Satisfice more and maximize less. By selecting good enough, we actually can often increase our satisfaction. Embrace and enjoy this satisficing. Maybe, the restaurant around the corner is the right choice for now.
  4. Make your choices non-reversible. Learn to love constraints – these constraints will help you with choosing. Simply say I do and stick with it.
  5. Practice an attitude of gratitude. It may feel strange at first but over time you feel more grateful. Things are often going better than you think.
  6. Know that over time you will adapt to a choice – like a new car for example. Control your expectations and appetite to want more. Get yourself off that hedonic treadmill! 
  7. The Internet is good for some things, but social comparison is not one of them. Limit your social comparison and look inside to find what gives you real meaning in life.

Good luck and happy choosing! 


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