Book Review: The Paradox of Choice

Overwhelmed by the options facing you? Feeling paralyzed by decision making? Barry Schwartz, author of “The Paradox of Choice” argues that too much freedom of choice is actually not as beneficial as we think.

What’s so bad about too much choice?

He reasons that too many options lead to

  • More effort expended in decision making
  • Greater likelihood of mistakes
  • More severe psychological consequences to making these mistakes

In a world with so much freedom of choice, he introduces two approaches to the decision-making process.

Are you a maximizer or a satisficer?

A maximizer will only accept the best, while a  satisficer is willing to settle for good enough (meets criteria and standards) and not worry about the possibility that there might be something better. For example maximizers:

  • Compares more products before and after purchases
  • Take longer to decide
  • Spend more time comparing their decisions to other people
  • Are more likely to experience regret after a purchase
  • Spend more time thinking about hypothetical alternatives
  • Feel less positive about their purchasing decision
  • Savor positive events less than satisfiers
  • Well-being takes longer to recover after a negative event
  • Brood/ruminate more than satisifcers

So what now?

To overcome this decision-making paralysis, Schwartz suggests that we

  • Embrace some constraints on freedom of choice
  • Choose good enough rather than the best
  • Lower our expectations about results of decisions
  • Stick to our decisions – don’t constantly chop and change
  • Stop focusing on what others are doing

Watch this TED talk if you would like to learn more. Or contact me for a session to help you make those overwhelming decisions in your life.