The Paradox of Choice

No items found.

by Barry Schwartz

A societal criticism of our fixation with choice, and how it adds to anxiety, unhappiness, and regret, in the style of Alvin Toffler's Future Shock. The author's new preface is included in this paperback edition. Whether it's buying a pair of jeans, getting a cup of coffee, picking a long-distance carrier, applying to college, selecting a doctor, or setting up a 401(k), everyday decisions have grown increasingly difficult owing to the overwhelming number of options with which we are faced.

We presume that having more alternatives equals having better options and being more satisfied as Americans. Excessive choice, on the other hand, might cause you to second-guess your decisions before you make them, set you up for excessively high expectations, and make you blame yourself for any and all failures. This can lead to decision-making paralysis, anxiety, and chronic stress in the long run. And, in a culture that teaches us that there's no justification for not being perfect when you have so many alternatives, having too many options can lead to severe depression.

Barry Schwartz demonstrates in The Paradox of Choice when choice—the characteristic of human freedom and self-determination that we prize—becomes harmful to our psychological and emotional well-being. Schwartz demonstrates how the enormous growth in choice—from the ordinary to the deeper issues of managing job, family, and individual needs—has paradoxically become a problem rather than a solution in clear, entertaining, and anecdotal writing. Schwartz also demonstrates how our preoccupation with choice leads us to seek out things that make us feel worse.

Schwartz presents the counterintuitive case that reducing options may considerably reduce stress, anxiety, and busyness in our lives by combining existing social scientific data. He outlines eleven practical techniques for reducing the amount of options available to a manageable number, developing the discipline to focus on the most essential options while ignoring the rest, and finally gaining greater satisfaction from the decisions you must make.

Our thoughts on The Paradox of Choice

Some books, ideas, and inventions happen before their time and as time goes on their value grows. The Paradox of Choice is an iconic, deepening look into what too much choice born in the age of abundance has on our well-being. First published in 2004, Barry Schwartz’s work takes the reader through a well-researched journey into why having more is not necessarily better.

From the early pages, Schwartz challenges the notion that having more choices is better. He explains that having few choices improves our well-being and happiness. He proves through research that the more options you have, the harder it will be to decide. Weaving stories from consumer experiences and scientific studies, The Paradox of Choice shines a light on the fallacy of more is always better.

His work details that beyond consumption choices, the culture of abundance has also impacted family lives, career choices, and individual needs creating a society that has more but feels like it has less. As I write this, in the summer of 2022, the numbers of choices we’re faced with has grown exponentially. The Paradox of Choice carries more value now than in 2004, and it is a must read for those looking to improve the choices they make in their lives and derive more satisfaction from making them.

Our favourite quote from The Paradox of Choice

Learning to choose is hard. Learning to choose well is harder. And learning to choose well in a world of unlimited possibilities is harder still, perhaps too hard.

Book Summary

Similar recommendations

Learning to choose is hard. Learning to choose well is harder. And learning to choose well in a world of unlimited possibilities is harder still, perhaps too hard.

— Barry Schwartz, The Paradox of Choice