Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Importance of Gratitude

** This is another repeat review, originally posted on May 7, 2007 on a previous blog. It's one Kansas Dad and I still talk about occasionally, so well worth your time. **

The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less

This book was another of Kansas Dad's finds. It's a fascinating look at why having more choices can actually make people more unhappy. It touched on everything from choosing a career to choosing a pair of jeans. (I've always had a problem myself with the toothpaste aisle. Why in the world do we need so many options?)

The first ten chapters presented a convincing set of studies and reports that having too many options does indeed make an individual unhappy, and has contributed to increasing levels of depression and stress in American society. I thought it was interesting to see how religion, faith and family values can help people deal with this particular kind of stress by limiting options to those that are morally acceptable (obviously more useful for those big life choices than the toothpaste aisle).

The best chapter, in my opinion, was the eleventh chapter. Here, Mr. Schwartz gives some concrete ways to decrease the disadvantages while still enjoying the benefits of all the choices we have today. The eleven steps he gives are all directly related to the evidence presented in the preceding chapters, but I will try to sum it up in one quick paragraph:

Take some time to consider what's important in life. Pay attention to those choices and don't worry about the others. Go with what's "good enough" more often than finding the absolute best. Once you've made a decision don't give yourself the option to go back and choose something else. Be thankful for what you have. Don't waste time and energy on regret. Be aware that whatever you choose, eventually it won't bring as much pleasure as it did at first. Keep expectations within reason. Don't concentrate so much on what others are doing or buying. Embrace limits and constraints that eliminate choices for us.

If you're interested in how these strategies can combat the depressing effect of too many choices, read the book. I think it's one choice you won't regret. (small groan)


  1. This sounds like something Joel and I would enjoy. We've talked a lot about this topic. It also reminds me of another book worth reading: The Progress Paradox. It is about how having more stuff (beyond the basics of what you need to comfortably survive), actually makes you less happy.

  2. I'll have to add that to my list, too. I read an article on The Simple Dollar recently about how having too much can decrease your happiness -- like when your house is too big. It's not just that the payments are a strain; it's that you don't have the time or energy to keep them clean! (I'm wondering if I'll have that problem when our second bathroom is up and running.)


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