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.
It's in our nature to want to succeed. It's also human nature to want to do right. But we've lost how to balance the two. How do we get it back?
Practical Wisdom can help. "Practical wisdom" is the essential human quality that combines the fruits of our individual experiences with our empathy and intellect-an aim that Aristotle identified millennia ago. It's learning "the right way to do the right thing in a particular circumstance, with a particular person, at a particular time." But we have forgotten how to do this. In Practical Wisdom, Barry Schwartz and Kenneth Sharpe illuminate how to get back in touch with our wisdom: how to identify it, cultivate it, and enact it, and how to make ourselves healthier, wealthier, and wiser.
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.
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.