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Paradox of Choice Book

I’ve gained a better understanding of how to make good decisions thanks to the book Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz, an oldie but a goodie, that I am halfway through reading on the Brisbane library overdrive app.

Choosing what is good enough is called satisficing and scouring through all the possible options in the hopes to find the best one is called maximizing.

Schwartz says that you should choose a good enough option without considering many options at all, i.e., be a satisficer. Being a maximizer (like me!) will leave you regretting what you didn’t choose, disappointed with what you did, and that’s because you’re thinking too hard about trade offs and counterfactual (impossible at best) opportunities.

This relates to a thing called loss aversion, which means that for equal amounts of gain and loss received, the bad feelings from the loss will be far worse than the good feelings of the gain subjectively. As maximizers have considered both the variety of gains or losses each decision could give, the losses continue to mount and weigh more heavily than the gains; maximizing by nature always triggers more negative emotions.

Schwartz also advocates for gratitude as an antidote, saying it can be practised (you can improve it like a skill) to give you a more positive subjective experience. It can relieve you from what’s called the hedonic treadmill, and its partner, the satisfaction treadmill. The former is where we consume (say, shop or eat sweets) again and again in order to get the high. The latter is where we fall into the trap of constantly experiencing a constant good quality of life to the point where we start hoping for an even higher constant good quality of life. Both treadmills are our mind’s way of combat adaptation (becoming less buzzed after the initial positive event(s) and then becoming steadily disappointed by it – both of which happen more often if you are a maximizer).

In sum, the book says don’t worry too much about making the perfect decision in every situation. Just choose what feels good enough and also practice some gratitude if you are becoming less satisfied in life.





Hi there,

Lauren Sims is an artist and author from Brisbane, Australia. She has recently become and author and will be releasing her first book in late 2022.

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