Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Challenges of a choice-abundant society: a Ted Talk and my thoughts.


(I apologize, I could not get the talk to embed directly here in my blog, but the link above is to the talk
Barry Schwartz: The paradox of choice.)

An excellent talk highlighting the challenges of a choice-abundant society. I've believed this for years, as this concept first punched me in the face when it was suddenly time to decide what career I was supposed to pick.

Overwhelmed by option I swirled in a chaotic torrent of angst and confusion. Still, to this day, (aside from my passion for music), I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. Every time I start to think about schooling and what to take to have professional value, my eyes twitch and go wibbly as the many courses, careers and directions batter my senses. Before I know it, I've shut down and go back to my day job. I could be anything, and so I am nothing.

I've felt this way over a myriad of things in my life and and observed this in the people around me.

Then I experienced something new. After my accident I found myself saying to people that although it was one of the greatest traumas of my life, for the first time in as long as I could remember I felt I had purpose. Direction. I had no choice but to fight for recovery. I had one path, no other. And it was oddly, (even though painfully), deeply satisfying.

Schwartz highlights that experience through his talk, and I really appreciate the smaller details he also touches on as well - like his anecdote about the soccer game and the phone. This abundance of choice, even in the smallest of measures, is affecting our psychology in a negative way.

Again, I experienced this when one day I lost my phone and for one week I was without an alternative. And for one week I felt peace. I could no longer constantly check facebook; even the desire was erased simply because there was no option to do so. I was no longer curious if someone messaged me while I was out. I needed not worry if someone was trying to get a hold of me because what could I do anyway? And I enjoyed the scenery of the world, because I had no nagging thought in the back of my mind to bury my head into my phone to double check that random (and likely unimportant) thing through the internet.

The decrease in stress was physically palpable.

Now, I'm not certain what the solution to this is. Unfortunately in the talk he provides no real solution. Simply 'lowering ones expectations' is definitely a task much easier said than done. And changing the world of marketing is a bit of a mighty task. But I believe that if we could make a change, if we could reduce choice and options to a more reasonable level, there would be a massive change in levels of happiness on a grand scale.

I wonder what we could do...?

Food for thought, anyway.

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