Monday, November 14, 2020

Choice, Freedom and Overload

One of the basic principles of Slow Leadership is to replace automatic responses and habitual compulsions with reasoned choices. We need to get off the track that's leading us into the type of working life more and more people are finding unsatisfying and impossibly stressful.

In "The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less," Barry Schwartz explores the nature of freedom and choice and comes to conclusions that refute conventional thinking. In summary, he says:
"1. We would be better off if we embraced certain voluntary constraints on our freedom of choice, instead of rebelling against them.

2. We would be better off seeking what was "good enough" instead of seeking the best (have you ever heard a parent say, "I want only the 'good enough' for my kids"?)

3. We would be better off if we lowered our expectations about the results of decisions.

4. We would be better off if the decisions we made were nonreversible.

5. We would be better off if we paid less attention to what others around us were doing."

His finding that we suffer not from too little choice, but rather from "choice overload," certainly mirrors my own experience. Coming to the USA from England, one of the hardest things to get used to was ordering a sandwich. By the time I'd gone through the list of options – bread, filling, type of cheese, mayo, drink, chips – I'd usually lost my appetite. How I longed for the British tendency to offer a single choice – take what we have or go without.

At the end of the book, Schwartz sets out eleven steps to deal with choice overload. I wish I'd known about them in 2000 when I crossed the Atlantic and settled in the US.

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