The Paradox of Choice (Barry Schwartz).

on Nov 17, 2011
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Barry Schwartz

Barry Shwartz gave a great TED Talk (see video link below) on how the sheer amount of choices available to us has morphed individuals into perpetual unsatisfied consumers of life. This perceived sense of freedom of picking from numerous options, has diluted our ability to experience the experience; appreciate the action we’ve taken and be more unhappy than happy. The constant deliberation of opportunity cost – the other choice we could have chosen, which would have allowed another experience – and the multitude of available options has diffused the liberating effect of the freedom of choice. Schwartz has done a great job of explaining the important reasons why Choice is an existential paradox, including among many, the perpetual, nagging human habit of having expectations.

Have you heard of the phrase ‘No Expectations = No Disappointments?’ Some of us hold these words as a vital lifeline in how we choose to experience our daily lives and relationships. Although it may seem pessimistic, trying to alleviate the notion of expecting a certain outcome from a situation or action, allows individuals to actually have the experience in real time. It allows for the culmination of satisfaction that many times we simply elude ourselves from having.

Is it possible to have absolutely no expectations on everything? Not ideally. As human beings we are programmed to deliberate and anticipate our satisfaction of a predated experience. We love to have an idealistic perception for everything, a bubble of delusion. With more choices comes more responsibility (burden), which instantly allocates the perceived choice to a higher value. After picking Choice A, yet believing that Choice B is better simply because we don’t have it, do we not rid ourselves of completely embracing Choice A’s and it’s experience?

Is there a way to jump out of this cyclical habit? I would think so. By monitoring our thought processes and its birthed attitude, we can be more mindful of how we choose to perceive our reality and our choices. We can put up a stop sign when expectations try to zoom through the street to allow us to stay put, right here, in the moment.

Yes, as usual I’m attempting to relay this entire concept in a holistic way. But the reality of life is that everything we say or do boils down to perception. It comes down to our choices in action and thought. It comes down to expecting, wait for it, the unexpected!

By being mindful, conscious, aware or whatever word best resonates to you, of our attitude and perspectives by choosing them as much as we choose our actions, we can allow satisfaction, understanding and unintentional joy to seep through the cracks that we try, oh so hard, not to have.

Barry Shwartz:


About Rajni Tripathi

Rajni Tripathi is driven by a thirst to understand human behavior and why we do what we do. Through her studies and as a Multidisciplinary Yoga instructor & Prenatal teacher in Conscious and Sacred Birthing, she operates on the belief that one’s life and its' discovery need not be dictated by another’s dogma or judgement. She strives to foster an authentic, fearless and impactful life for herself and anyone who seeks it. Stay in touch with her musings: RajniO, Facebook and twitter.


5 Responses to “The Paradox of Choice (Barry Schwartz).”

  1. Madhur says:

    Very well put. Great article!

  2. Teri Dillion says:

    I agree that our perceptions create our experience, and our awareness of our habits can provide a way out–very much so! Also, it seems in order to be able to make a *choice* for a more satisfying experience, we need real-life experience practicing noticing our habits… this seems to be where the instructions to just "pay attention" pan out. It takes discipline and continuity in working with our minds and bodies in order to find the freedom we're longing for. Meditation, anyone?

    Thanks for the article!

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