Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Curious about Choices - Is It True that More Are Less?

As I was in the midst of running errands today, I heard a small portion of a program on National Public Radio (NPR), where Barry Schwartz was being interviewed about his book, The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less.

Before I continue with this topic, my disclaimer is that I only heard close to a total of a disjointed 15 to 20 minutes, and I have not read the book - just a beginning on Amazon - but I am fascinated by the huge number of choices we face daily and how we handle them.

The premise of Schwartz’s book is that we have so many choices that it is easy to become overwhelmed and depressed - he cited college students who are offered huge catalogues of classes, many choices in the area of romance, careers to plan for, colleges to attend, etc. In the beginning of the book, Schwartz lists numbers of products - at the grocery, in clothing stores, at auto dealers, etc. - to choose from. So many, that we don’t know where to start. And, will we ever be satisfied with our choices, knowing that there may have been better ones?

The good news is that this snippet of discussion has triggered much thought today about how lucky I feel I am to have so many choices - not that every or nearly many of the choices I make turn out to be perfect or the best choice.

Choices for me involve discipline, attitude adjustment, knowing myself (strengths and weaknesses), and defining my purpose. What do I mean? Let me share a few examples.

I choose to be fit and healthy, so I exercise regularly (teach 12 fitness classes a week) and watch what I eat. Both take lots of discipline. I choose to have a positive attitude. Because it was so close to the holidays, the grocery store was jammed and lines were long. Some customers chose to be grumpy - it didn’t help them get through faster, and they left the store in a bad mood. One of my weaknesses is I love to buy, so I have to rope myself in when making buying decisions - Schwartz did touch a nerve here because there are so many wonderful choices. He may be right that there are too many.

In my opinion, the best choice we can make is to clarify our purpose and direction - the contribution(s) we want to make to the world. When we are solid and sure in this area, choices become clear and direct. We know when to say, “Yes!” and especially, “No!” This has helped me more than any other choice I have ever made - and continues as my guide.

How about you? What important choices are you making?