Rating

9

Qualities

  • Applicable
  • Engaging
  • Inspiring

Recommendation

Barry Schwartz’s penetrating analysis of the problematic consequences of having too many choices may spur you to rethink how you approach decisions in your life. Schwartz, a psychology professor, unpacks cognitive quirks and psychological challenges that the human mind brings to decision making. He demonstrates how choice becomes more burdensome when options proliferate. Schwartz uses easy-to-understand, everyday examples and offers techniques for avoiding the pitfalls of too much choice and increasing your satisfaction with your decisions.

Summary

 

Modern life greatly increases your options.

Does a cornucopia of choice make you happier? In recent years, American consumers have grown to spend more time shopping but enjoy it less. The seemingly endless range of options available can be overwhelming. People face increasingly complex decisions around consumer goods and services like cellphone contracts, retirement plans and medical protocols. Additionally, they navigate many societal options regarding their working lives, love lives and spiritual lives.

American society proclaims a commitment to individual freedom and autonomy and sees choice as a hallmark of liberty – the more choice, the more freedom. But too much choice isn’t so liberating. In fact, it can be paralyzing. Take charge of your decision-making by evaluating your recent choices. How much effort did you expend – in time, research or emotional stress – on each step of the process? How much did that benefit your results? Identify categories of decisions for which you could use simple rules of thumb to minimize the cognitive and psychological burden. You may find you don’t need to make some choices at all.

About the Author

Barry Schwartz is the Dorwin Cartwright Professor of Social Theory and Social Action at Swarthmore College. He also wrote Why We Work, Practical Wisdom and The Costs of Living.


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