In this TED Talk from 2005, Barry Schwartz discusses some important points from his groundbreaking book The Paradox of Choice. The premise is that we’re wrong to believe that the maximization of choice is a crucial component of our ultimate freedom and overall wellbeing.
Schwartz’ argument boils down to this: More choices aren’t necessarily better than some choices. In a world where everything from our food, electronics, health, relationships, careers, and even our identity is subject to endless decision-making and variety, we tend to become paralyzed and can’t make any decisions at all. Even worse, we feel endless regret over a good choice we made, because we fall under the illusion that another choice would have been better than good. It would have been perfect.
In the video, Schwartz also describes how endless decision-making takes up so much of our headspace that we have a hard time being present. Even a good decision to not take a work-related call during your child’s soccer game still fosters anxiety-related energy about the decision just made. However, there is a way out of this vicious cycle of decision-making, paralysis, disappointment and regret.
It’s called mindfulness.
Although we can’t control the number of choices we’re faced with on a daily or even hourly basis, we can control the way we react to those choices. By living presently in the moment, we don’t have to feel paralyzed. We can approach the wide array of choices with a sense of adventure, playful risk, and curiosity about where our ultimate choice might lead us.
We also don’t have to feel regret or disappointment after we make our decision.The whole point of mindfulness is to draw your mind, body and spirit back into the present rather than re-hash the past, or anticipate that something better will come along in the future.
By remaining present to ourselves through mindfulness, we accept the here-and-now decision with joy, wonderment and gratitude. And if we discover that our choice was indeed a truly “bad” one, mindfulness allows us to accept that “bad” choice as an opportunity to learn from our mistakes and grow stronger because of them.
Schwartz is right that a world with too much variety and too many choices can make a person depressed or anxious. However, by cultivating a mindful attitude, you can avoid the pitfalls of living in such a world. In fact, you can create the kind of world you want to by being the positive reflection you want to see in your world.
If you’d like to learn more about mindfulness training and how it can serve you in your every decision, reach out to me.
You can find true freedom and liberation from unhealthy, inhibiting mindsets. Find your clarity today!