Are you worried that you’ll make the wrong choice today? It might be a decision that is life changing – like to stay or leave your current job - or something must simpler – like which route will be the fastest way to get work. But with more information available to us than ever before, the truth is that it’s become increasingly difficult to feel confident that we’re making the right choices and studies suggest that this is impacting our happiness and wellbeing.
“The fact that some choice is good and gives you a feeling of freedom and power, doesn't necessarily mean that more choice is better,” said Barry Schwartz of Swarthmore College, the author of The Paradox of Choice, when I interviewed him recently. “As your number of choices grow, you reach a point where instead of being liberated by options, you become paralyzed, make bad decisions because you’re overwhelmed and even when you make good decisions you’re dissatisfied with them because you think the alternative may have been better.”
Barry suggests that the key is understanding how much freedom of choice serves you well in different situations. For example:
Whilst some people are more inclined to pursue the best and other people are more inclined to pursue good enough, Barry’s research indicates that people who are out to find the best objectively make better decisions but subjectively feel worse about how they’ve done. In fact, studies have found that people with high maximization scores experience less satisfaction with life, are less happy, are less optimistic and more depressed. More susceptible to “buyer’s remorse” their quest for perfection frequently causes them to experience regret and pain about their choices.
Barry suggests that the most plausible way to limit the choice problem and the costs of being a Maximizer, therefore, is to deliberately adopt the strategy that “good enough” is good enough in virtually every decision you face provided that you understand being a Satisficer doesn't mean you don't have high standards. Instead, try to see your standards as a moving target, so while your new product is currently “good enough” to launch, you can still be on the lookout for ways to improve and build upon what the last decision you’ve made.
“Choosing wisely starts with developing a clear understanding of your goals and values,” advises Barry. “And allowing yourself to be satisfied once your experiences measure up to these”. Here are three ways Barry suggested you can experiment with making better choices today:
What decision will you make today?