Setting up a possible new comment system, I couldn't help but think of what is known as the paradox of choice discussed by Barry Schwartz at TED shown above. It turns out, many studies show that if you give people too many options in life they are actually less happy and satisfied with what they have. Barry discusses several reasons for this:
One effect, paradoxically, is that it produces paralysis, rather than liberation. With so many options to choose from, people find it very difficult to choose at all... A study that was done of investments in voluntary retirement plans... [and] found is that for every 10 mutual funds the employer offered, rate of participation went down two percent... Why? Because with 50 funds to choose from, it's so [darn] hard to decide which fund to choose that you'll just put it off until tomorrow.I have seen this in my own life. When faced with too many decisions, equally good in nature in my eyes, I will sometimes put them off and secretly wish someone could have just made the decision for me so I didn't have to worry about it.
The second effect is that even if we... make a choice, we end up less satisfied with the result of the choice than we would be if we had fewer options to choose from. And there are several reasons for this. One of them is that with a lot of different salad dressings to choose from, if you buy one, and it's not perfect... It's easy to imagine that you could have made a different choice that would have been better. And what happens is this imagined alternative induces you to regret the decision you made, and this regret subtracts from the satisfaction you get out of the decision you made, even if it was a good decision.Again, I was eating lunch the other day with a bunch of good options and as soon as I tasted the one I ordered I thought: "I wonder if the other option was better." Having several options is what made this initial thought possible.
[Also]... when there are lots of alternatives to consider, it is easy to imagine the attractive features of alternatives that you reject, that make you less satisfied with the alternative that you've chosen.The grass is always greener on the other side as they say. :)
Third: escalation of expectations. This hit me when I went to replace my jeans... There was a time when jeans came in one flavor... And the shopkeeper said, "Do you want slim fit, easy fit, [names over a dozen choices].. and I walked out of the store -- truth be told -- with the best fitting jeans I had ever had... But I felt worse. Why?... with all of these options available, my expectations about how good a pair of jeans should be went up. I had very low expectations. I had no particular expectations when they only came in one flavor. When they came in 100 flavors, [darn] it, one of them should've been perfect. And what I got was good, but it wasn't perfect. And so I compared what I got to what I expected, and what I got was disappointing in comparison to what I expected.Again, not to hard to see this is sometimes true.
And lastly, to once again pay tribute to Fiddler on the Roof, which we do from time to time here, I want to point out this one last quote:
With respect to marriage and family, there was a time when the default assumption that almost everyone had is that you got married as soon as you could, and then you started having kids as soon as you could. The only real choice was who, not when, and not what you did after.... Nowadays, everything is very much up for grabs. [Kids these days] are preoccupied, asking themselves, "Should I get married or not? Should I get married now? Should I get married later? Should I have kids first, or a career first?" All of these are consuming questions.If you remember, Tevye was agonizing over how much freedom to give his daughters in marriage, and he was very flexible for his culture. However, because of his traditions there were some options not allowed on the table.
To us that may seem too primitive and harsh, but given the paradox of choice, this may have led his daughters to the most happiness. Perhaps, even though his traditions seem goofy and primitive, they are actually genius in this context and the thesis of the movie is all too true: "Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as... a fiddler on the roof!" (Or as Barry might say, "If it weren't for your traditions you may actually be less happy because of the paradox of choice.")