The Paradox of Choice

5 Feb

Our Heroine Falls Victim to First World Problem- The Paradox of Choice

What To Do?

This summer, I finally read Barry Schwartz’s The Paradox of Choice and Malcom Gladwell’s Blink (OK, I listened this one on audiobook, but that counts as reading, right?),  books about how we make choices in the modern world.  Schwartz says the overabundance of choices we face (he focuses heavily on consumer choices, but pretty much argues his point as a general principle) causes us anxiety, makes it harder to choose, and makes us less satisfied with the choices we end up making. Gladwell says of Blink:

It’s a book about rapid cognition, about the kind of thinking that happens in a blink of an eye. When you meet someone for the first time, or walk into a house you are thinking of buying, or read the first few sentences of a book, your mind takes about two seconds to jump to a series of conclusions. Well, “Blink” is a book about those two seconds, because I think those instant conclusions that we reach are really powerful and really important and, occasionally, really good.

Both hit a nerve with me.  I have a really hard time making decisions about how to spend my time.  It’s because I’m what Barry Schwartz calls a “maximizer”- this abundance of choice I’ve faced my whole life has made me believe I must always be doing the most fulfilling, productive, and enjoyable thing at every moment.  Once I make decision about how to spend an afternoon, I start thinking maybe I’d be happier doing something else.  It’s exhausting, all this choices and resources and pressure to have fun all the time!  

So here I am, sitting at work, trying to plan out my day and I end up with this ridiculous diagram.  There aren’t even that many options today, but I can’t decide whether it’s a better idea to go work out or go home and make dinner or go to an event before rehearsal. It’s ridiculous.  But luckily, thanks to Laurie’s post on the very same subject, I have a solution.

“Should I work out today?” I don’t think so.

“Should I go to Ironwood Studios?” It is unclear.

“Should I just go home and drink wine and do crafts before rehearsal?” It is decidedly so.

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