Too Much Choice

Posted by: on Dec 1, 2015 | No Comments

peter-c-vey-it-all-looks-so-great-i-can-t-wait-to-be-disappointed-new-yorker-cartoon

I just finished Aziz Ansari’s book Modern Romance and I highly recommend it. Aziz Ansari is a comedian and the main character of his show, Master of None, which is hilarious. He wrote the book to explore why dating in this culture at this time basically sucks. I won’t go into the whole book, but I’m going to focus on a concept he discusses in the middle of the book: maximizers and satisficers.

Maximizers are folks who want to be as sure as possible that they are making the right purchases and choices. They are the folks who research every taco place in NYC before picking one so that they can make sure to go to “the best.” They are the folks who go to 42 open houses and are in the real estate market for 3 years before they put in an offer on a home.

Satisficers might do a little research, but they pick more quickly and are less interested in finding “the best.” They might not mind buying the first jacket they see in the store if they like it or renting the first apartment they go look at if it seems to basically meet their criteria.

Most of us are some combo of maximizer and satisficer. But in our affluent Western society, more and more of us are maximizers in more and more areas. And here’s the clincher: research shows that even when a maximizer ends up with a purchase (or partner or experience) that is “better” than that of a satisficer, THE SATISFICER IS HAPPIER.

Even if you pick the BEST TACO PLACE in the world after an hour of research, you won’t enjoy it as much as the person who picked the 2nd taco place they saw on the street that looked good and smelled great.

WHY?!? And why are we all becoming maximizers?

With greater choice, comes higher expectation and more comparison. With more comparison comes the possibility that somewhere out there, there is an even better choice. And with the possibility that your choice is less than ideal, there is dissatisfaction and SELF-BLAME.

As Barry Schwartz, the author of Paradox of Choice, states, “The secret to happiness is lower expectations.”

Now obviously, there are some serious benefits to choice and to having options. No argument there. But there’s a spectrum between no choice and too much choice and we’re leaning out on the extremity of that spectrum, goggly eyed and freaking out over the 175 different kinds of salad dressing and 72 different cell phones we have to decide between.

So. This holiday season, when we are all barraged with messages trying to tempt us into buying the best gift, making the best cookie, hosting the best party, wearing the best outfit…try this on for size:

Aim for average. Embrace “good enough.” Revel in so-so.

Let’s all put on our satisficer hats and enjoy the sh$%&t out of what we’ve got. Right here, right now.

Love,

Rachel

P.S. watch Barry Schwartz’s tedtalk: The Paradox of Choice