We often think that being able to choose for ourselves is a good thing
and that having more alternatives from which to choose is an even better thing.
But do all those choices lead to more happiness?
The research says no.
Sometimes, more options simply confuse our brains. We will be happier if we stop considering every option available and focus on what is most important to us. That will help us choose more wisely and save time.
Sometimes, choosing what is good enough is wiser than searching for the best. We will be happier if we don’t imagine that every situation we face has a best solution that we must somehow discover before making a decision.
Sometimes, when we spend a lot of time making a decision, we think what we choose will bring us much more happiness than is realistic. We will be happier if we lower our expectations as to what we will happen get what we have chosen. After all, we generally get used to what we choose and then it doesn’t seem so exciting any more.
Sometimes, being able to change our minds leads to dissatisfaction. We will be happier if some of our decisions are nonreversible so we can get on with other things in life rather than spending more emotional and mental energy deciding whether to reverse our decisions.
Sometimes, we regret our decisions. We will be happier if we remember that we cannot be certain that changing one factor in our past would make our present life any better. However, we can be certain that focusing on regret will reduce our future happiness.
Sometimes, we see all the possilities in the world and we want too much. We will be happier if we pay less attention to other people and their possessions and activities and quietly be happy for the choices that are open to us.
We will be happier if we show gratitude for what we already have rather than thinking that having more choices will lead to a more exciting life.
For more information, read The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz (HarperCollins, 2004).
[This page may be copied for use with students if the following credit is provided: ©2010 Sophie Rosen.]