Whether we're buying a pair of jeans, ordering a cup of coffee, selecting a long-distance carrier, applying to college, choosing a doctor, or setting up a 401(k), everyday decisions -- both big and small -- have become increasingly complex due to the overwhelming abundance of choice with which we are presented.
As Americans, we assume that more choice means better options and greater satisfaction. But beware of excessive choice: choice overload can make you question the decisions you make before you even make them, it can set you up for unrealistically high expectations, and it can make you blame yourself for any and all failures. In the long run, this can lead to decision-making paralysis, anxiety, and perpetual stress. And, in a culture that tells us that there is no excuse for falling short of perfection when your options are limitless, too much choice can lead to clinical depression. In The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz explains at what point choice -- the hallmark of individual freedom and self-determination that we so cherish -- becomes detrimental to our psychological and emotional well-being. In accessible, engaging, and anecdotal prose, Schwartz shows how the dramatic explosion in choice -- from the mundane to the profound challenges of balancing career, family, and individual needs -- has paradoxically become a problem instead of a solution. Schwartz also shows how our obsession with choice encourages us to seek that which makes us feel worse. By synthesizing current research in the social sciences, Schwartz makes the counter intuitive case that eliminating choices can greatly reduce the stress, anxiety, and busyness of our lives. He offers eleven practical steps on how to limit choices to a manageable number, have the discipline to focus on those that are important and ignore the rest, and ultimately derive greater satisfaction from the choices you have to make.
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“Brilliant.... The case Schwartz makes... is compelling, the implications disturbing.... An insightful book.” (Christian Science Monitor)
“An insightful study that winningly argues its subtitle.” (Philadelphia Inquirer)
“Schwartz lays out a convincing argument.... [He] is a crisp, engaging writer with an excellent sense of pace.” (Austin American-Statesman)
“Schwartz offers helpful suggestions of how we can manage our world of overwhelming choices.” (St. Petersburg Times)
“Wonderfully readable.” (Washington Post)
“Schwartz has plenty of insightful things to say about the perils of everyday life.” (Booklist)
“With its clever analysis, buttressed by sage New Yorker cartoons, The Paradox of Choice is persuasive.” (BusinessWeek)
Barry Schwartz is the Dorwin Cartwright Professor of Social Theory and Social Action at Swarthmore College. He is the author of several books, including The Battle for Human Nature: Science, Morality and Modern Life and The Costs of Living: How Market Freedom Erodes the Best Things in Life. His articles have appeared in many of the leading journals in his field, including the American Psychologist. He lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
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