The Paradox of Choice

I despise buying jeans.

Going into a jean store is stressful…there are way too many styles- boy cut, relaxed, faded, torn, embellished, skinny, jeggings….and within those options, 20 different colors!

Typically I end up trying on 15-20 pairs, asking the sales girl a million questions “Will they stretch? Will they shrink? Will the color fade?” before deciding on one overpriced pair that I’m not all that satisfied with.

It’s really annoying!

My jean-buying experience is typical of our society where choices are abundant and anxiety over making the right decision is overbearing….or so says Barry Schwartz, author of the book Paradox of Choice- Why More is Less.

I picked up his book awhile ago and recently found the time to sit down and read it. In the book, Schwartz argues that having too many options  often leads to depression and feelings of loneliness. He says:

“People can’t ignore options – they have to pay attention to them. If they make a choice, is there another choice would have been better? There’s more effort put into making decisions, and less in enjoying them. What’s nagging is the possibility that, if they had chosen differently, they could have gotten something better.”

Living in a big city, I find this logic hits close to home. Getting dinner on a Friday night often turns into a whirlwind of decisions that need to be made – where to eat, how to make the reservation, how to get there, what to order…at times it can take the joy out of the experience!

And when it comes to major decisions like who to marry, where to live, what job to take? Well that’s even more difficult. Schwartz says:

“I find that people have an incredibly hard time making important life decisions and the more talented they are the worse it is. Because if you’re very talented and have cultivated many of those talents you are both interested in a lot of things and good at a lot of things.

I think it’s totally debilitating, and people graduate from college and start what they think is going to be a year but often extends into the indefinite future trying to figure out what to do. “What kind of person am I going to be, where am I going to live, anything is possible. This is one of the benefits of freedom and affluence, I should take advantage of all that.” But then the time comes to choose and people don’t know how to choose.”

I hear ya Schwartz!

The book discusses so many more facets to this issue- so if you’re interested, check it out. I want to hear from you though.

Do you struggle with making everyday decisions? How often do you second-guess a decision you’ve made? Do you strive for the perfect choice or are you satisfied with an OK one?