The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, Revised Edition

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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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An eye-opening, groundbreaking tour of the purpose of work in our lives, showing how work operates in our culture and how you can find your own path to happiness in the workplace.

Why do we work? The question seems so simple. But Professor Barry Schwartz proves that the answer is surprising, complex, and urgent.

We’ve long been taught that the reason we work is primarily for a paycheck. In fact, we’ve shaped much of the infrastructure of our society to accommodate this belief. Then why are so many people dissatisfied with their work, despite healthy compensation? And why do so many people find immense fulfillment and satisfaction through “menial” jobs? Schwartz explores why so many believe that the goal for working should be to earn money, how we arrived to believe that paying workers more leads to better work, and why this has made our society confused, unhappy, and has established a dangerously misguided system.

Through fascinating studies and compelling anecdotes, this book dispels this myth. Schwartz takes us through hospitals and hair salons, auto plants and boardrooms, showing workers in all walks of life, showcasing the trends and patterns that lead to happiness in the workplace. Ultimately, Schwartz proves that the root of what drives us to do good work can rarely be incentivized, and that the cause of bad work is often an attempt to do just that.

How did we get to this tangled place? How do we change the way we work? With great insight and wisdom, Schwartz shows us how to take our first steps toward understanding, and empowering us all to find great work.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Harper Collins
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Published on
Oct 13, 2009
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Pages
304
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ISBN
9780061748998
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Language
English
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Genres
Psychology / Social Psychology
Social Science / Anthropology / Cultural & Social
Social Science / Popular Culture
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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An eye-opening, groundbreaking tour of the purpose of work in our lives, showing how work operates in our culture and how you can find your own path to happiness in the workplace.

Why do we work? The question seems so simple. But Professor Barry Schwartz proves that the answer is surprising, complex, and urgent.

We’ve long been taught that the reason we work is primarily for a paycheck. In fact, we’ve shaped much of the infrastructure of our society to accommodate this belief. Then why are so many people dissatisfied with their work, despite healthy compensation? And why do so many people find immense fulfillment and satisfaction through “menial” jobs? Schwartz explores why so many believe that the goal for working should be to earn money, how we arrived to believe that paying workers more leads to better work, and why this has made our society confused, unhappy, and has established a dangerously misguided system.

Through fascinating studies and compelling anecdotes, this book dispels this myth. Schwartz takes us through hospitals and hair salons, auto plants and boardrooms, showing workers in all walks of life, showcasing the trends and patterns that lead to happiness in the workplace. Ultimately, Schwartz proves that the root of what drives us to do good work can rarely be incentivized, and that the cause of bad work is often an attempt to do just that.

How did we get to this tangled place? How do we change the way we work? With great insight and wisdom, Schwartz shows us how to take our first steps toward understanding, and empowering us all to find great work.
Have you ever . . . Invested time in something that, in hindsight, just wasn't worth it? Paid too much in an eBay auction? Continued to do something you knew was bad for you? Sold stocks too late, or too early? Taken credit for success, but blamed failure on external circumstances? Backed the wrong horse?

These are examples of what the author calls cognitive biases, simple errors all of us make in day-to-day thinking. But by knowing what they are and how to identify them, we can avoid them and make better choices: whether in dealing with personal problems or business negotiations, trying to save money or earn profits, or merely working out what we really want in life—and strategizing the best way to get it.

Already an international bestseller, The Art of Thinking Clearly distills cutting-edge research from behavioral economics, psychology, and neuroscience into a clever, practical guide for anyone who's ever wanted to be wiser and make better decisions. A novelist, thinker, and entrepreneur, Rolf Dobelli deftly shows that in order to lead happier, more prosperous lives, we don't need extra cunning, new ideas, shiny gadgets, or more frantic hyperactivity—all we need is less irrationality.

Simple, clear, and always surprising, this indispensable book will change the way you think and transform your decision making—at work, at home, every day. From why you shouldn't accept a free drink to why you should walk out of a movie you don't like, from why it's so hard to predict the future to why you shouldn't watch the news, The Art of Thinking Clearly helps solve the puzzle of human reasoning.

We all value freedom, family, friends, work, education, health, and leisure—“the best things in life.”  But the pressure we experience to chase the dollar in order to satisfy both the demands of the bottom line and the demands of our seemingly insatiable desire to consume are eroding these best things in life.  Our children now value profit centers, not sports heroes.  Our educational system is fast becoming nothing more than a financial investment where students are encouraged to expend more energy on making the grade than on learning about their world.  Our business leaders are turning young idealists into cynics when they cut corners and explain that “everybody’s doing it.”  The need to achieve in our careers intrudes so greatly on our personal world that we find ourselves weighing the “costs” of enjoying friendships rather than working.

In this book, psychologist Barry Schwartz unravels how market freedom has insidiously expanded its reach into domains where it does not belong.  He shows how this trend developed from a misguided application of the American value of individuality and self-pursuit, and how it was aided by our turning away from the basic social institutions that once offered traditional community values.  These developments have left us within an overall framework for living where worth is measured entirely by usefulness in the marketplace.  The more we allow market considerations to guide our lives, the more we will continue to incur the real costs of living, among them disappointment and loneliness.We all value freedom, family, friends, work, education, health, and leisure—“the best things in life.”  But the pressure we experience to chase the dollar in order to satisfy both the demands of the bottom line and the demands of our seemingly insatiable desire to consume are eroding these best things in life.  Our children now value profit centers, not sports heroes.  Our educational system is fast becoming nothing more than a financial investment where students are encouraged to expend more energy on making the grade than on learning about their world.  Our business leaders are turning young idealists into cynics when they cut corners and explain that “everybody’s doing it.”  The need to achieve in our careers intrudes so greatly on our personal world that we find ourselves weighing the “costs” of enjoying friendships rather than working.

In this book, psychologist Barry Schwartz unravels how market freedom has insidiously expanded its reach into domains where it does not belong.  He shows how this trend developed from a misguided application of the American value of individuality and self-pursuit, and how it was aided by our turning away from the basic social institutions that once offered traditional community values.  These developments have left us within an overall framework for living where worth is measured entirely by usefulness in the marketplace.  The more we allow market considerations to guide our lives, the more we will continue to incur the real costs of living, among them disappointment and loneliness.

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