When I was in high school, our teacher made us read this article. To this day, it may be one of the best articles I’ve read. The Tyranny of Choice, by Barry Schwartz discusses why having more options many times leads to higher levels of dissatisfaction.
For the most part, people tend to believe that they benefit from the abundance of options. The more, the merrier. However, many researchers and psychologists have recently found that there may in fact be a correlation between people’s sense of unhappiness and the amount of choices available to them.
In the world today, it can be said that having options available to everyone is important. However, when people are faced with excessive possible selections, research shows that people suffer from depression, grief, and sadness.
The article defines two different types of people:
1. Maximizers- A term used to describe people who often have an extremely difficult time making choices. Maximizers generally take a very long time deciding what to buy and are constantly comparing different products. Once a person has made a decision, people classified as maximizers tend to wonder if their decision was the right one or if they should have chosen a different option.
2. Satisficers – People who don’t have such a difficult time making choices. Satisficers do not spend as much time shopping because as soon as they find something that they like, they feel happy and don’t feel the need to continue searching.
Ultimately, studies conclude that maximizers often experience less satisfaction with their lives and are more depressed and pessimistic than people categorized as satisficers.
Well that’s just great…
After a really long day at work last week, I decided to go shopping (never a good idea to go shopping when you’re bored, frustrated, annoyed,etc.). I went to my favorite shoe store and I tried on probably 8 paris of shoes. Luckily for my wallet, I didn’t like all 8 pairs. However, I fell in love with one pair that was just beautiful. Everything was going great until the girl that was helping me said, “I know you’re looking at those in black, but we also have them in nude.” Wonderful… So what did I do? I had her bring out the other pair. I couldn’t make up my mind because I loved them both. I now have both pairs sitting in my closet. Fail. It was a bad financial decision, but I just couldn’t stand the idea of leaving the store with one pair and then later regretting that I hadn’t gotten them in nude. I definitely experienced anxiety buying those shoes, and that’s not okay. If it’s going to cause any kind of emotion, shopping should make me feel better, not worse. Clearly, I’m a maximizer.
There are many reasons why more options are not always beneficial to people. For the most part, as the number of choices increases, so does a person’s sense of loss. Unfortunately, losses add more hurt than gains contribute to our happiness. Without options, people would not be able to experience a sense of regret because there’s no alternative to compare their choice to. A limited amount of options therefore suppresses depression, unhappiness, and grief.
So why do I bring this up? Because it’s absolutely relevant to us Gen-Yers. We’ve been brought up to believe that we can be whatever we want to be. And for those of us that are smart, driven, and possess the tools necessary to succeed in the world, we actually CAN do pretty much anything, anywhere, at any given time.
Shouldn’t this make us happy? Shouldn’t we be glad that “the sky’s the limit” ? I guess in theory, yes. But the unfortunate reality is that this opportunity leaves us unhappy, frustrated, and lost. We graduate college and have to make some of the biggest decisions of our lives! Many of us can pack our bags and move to any city, work at any job, in any field. So how are we supposed to know what the right choice is?
The best advice that I can offer is to just DO SOMETHING. Keep moving. Don’t spend so much time worrying about whether or not it’s the BEST option. Find something you love and work on it. After all, “the grass is always greener where you water it.”