Having More Choices is Better Right? Actually, It's Quite the Opposite.

Nov 12, 2014 -

Having Fewer Choices Leads to Happiness

The world we live in today is much different than the world we lived in thirty years ago. In particular we have more choices than ever before. For example, not only did we not have cell phones thirty years ago, but we also rented our land-line phones from a company called Bell. Now we have the iPhone 6, Samsung Galaxy Ace 2, HTC One, Sony Xperia U, Nexus 4, and so on and so forth.  

Technology has allowed us to communicate with just about anyone at any time from anywhere. At any point in time you may get a phone call from your boss or an email might come through your phone. You ask yourself, should I answer that phone call or should I reply to that email? Everywhere you turn there is a decision to be made. A choice you need to make.

Give a man or woman too many choices and we will find ourselves paralyzed or uncertain as to what to do. For example, if you take your lady to the mall and she sees hundreds of purses, she will not know which one to choose. What will end up happening is she will spend two hours looking for the "right" one. Then when she finally decides on a bag and purchases it, on the way home she will start to think about all the other bags that she didn't buy. She starts to question whether or not she made the right decision.

This similar scenario would play out for a guy who shopping for electronics. We compare and contract the latest phones or gadgets. Since there are literally hundreds of different electronics, we can't make a quick decision. The minute that we do, we end up thinking about the other gadgets we didn't end up buying. When there are more options to choose from, it is easier to imagine that you could have made a better choice. What ends up happening is that you regret the decision you made and that regret leads to less satisfaction.

"Opportunity costs subtract from the satisfaction we get out of what we choose, even when what we choose is terrific. And the more options there are to consider, the more attractive features of these options are going to be reflected by us as opportunity costs." - Barry Schwartz

When more choices are presented, we naturally raise our expectations. Suppose you were presented with 100 different soda flavors. Of course you'd expect that from at least one of those 100 flavors, you'd be able to find a perfect flavor. One that will blow your mind and be crowned the victor of all sodas. Arguably, if there is only one flavor, you will have lower expectations as to whether or not that particular flavor will dazzle your taste buds. Even when statistically in the 100 flavors there is a high probability that at least one of the flavors is better than that single flavor, the fact that our expectations are raised, will result in being less satisfied. In conclusion, if you want to be happy, just have low expectations. 

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