The Paradox of Choice

Every so often, I go for a long drive with my friend and talk about life.   A few months ago, we were discussing the book “The Paradox of Choice – Why More Is Less” by Barry Schwartz.  The book explores a very simple concept (that we all know deep down), which is that you can’t miss something if you never had it.  But once you have it, its hard to go back.  This short Seinfeld clip explains the concept quite well:

It kind of makes you wonder if we would all be better off without fast cars, smart phones, and big screen TVs. The irony of the “paradox of choice” is that it implies that we actually control our happiness, and yet most of us are drawn to the bright lights of possessions and materiality. Who can blame us….who wouldn’t want to have music, email, internet, and much much more on one device? Who wouldn’t want to watch the big game on a 55″ inch screen? The problem is, items that we once wanted transition to items that we now need.  For instance, back in 2000 having a cell phone was a luxury. These days, everyone from grandmothers to 13 year old kids have them.

Living in New York, a town known for indulgence and excess, its easy to see how folks can fall into a similar trap.  From fashion trends to dinner reservations, there is competition amongst Gen Y’ers to look better or be the first one to try that new hot restaurant.  In the suburbs, I think a similar comparison can be made to automobile selection.  If one is to live in Greenwich, CT, they probably will not be parking a 1998 Buick in the driveway.

As you can see, I really have no answers, just observations on the topic of happiness.  Someday, I plan to hold a Happiness Summit where thinkers can gather and form a plan of action.  If you think about it, we all spend time planning our financial future not considering whether our decisions will make us happy, just financially comfortable.  And while financial comfort is important, wouldn’t you also like to be happy?

Keep it simple New York.

Bright Lights, Big City.

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