Sunday, 25 September 2016

THE PARADOX OF CHOICE; How too many choices make us unhappy

Understanding how your choice is being influenced and how to choose wisely.
Ishola Ayodele

A popular presenter while discussing   about her choice of an idea husband for her on a popular TV show in Nigeria said, she wanted a man who is tall, handsome and dark skinned but she ended up marrying a light skinned man. Will this have any effect in her life?

Prof. William Glasser in his powerful book *Choice Theory*  postulated that "unhappiness results from making misguided choices".
He believed that by making better choices, we can maintain better relationships which will help us to lead a more fulfilled lives

*Why do we choose?*

From what we have all learnt in Economics, human wants are unlimited and the means to satisfy them are limited or scarce. Consequently we have to choose.

But the real question is.

*Do we really choose by  ourselves or others choose for us?*

Almost 99.9% of us will say YES.

Research in the field of cognitive science, neuroscience, social psychology and even Marketing have all proven that majority of people do not choose by themselves but are influenced to choose.

Why do you think advertisers bombard us with so much adverts on radio,TV, posters, Internet even on our phones.

Professor Barry in his very insightful and research based book *"The Paradox of choice"* identified three important factors.

1. Many people's choice is based on the perception of other people.

That is sometimes we make our choice because of how it will make people think about us.
For Instance
A shirt that could sell for N1500 in other markets maybe sold for N3500 in a boutique.

Some people find it difficult to marry someone who is lower in social status compared to them even when they acknowledged that the person is nice and responsible because of what their rich friends will say or think about them.

2. The ideal choice syndrome.

Many people are always looking for the perfect choice. The perfect house, job, car even the perfect man/lady. Prof. Barry described these people as the *Miximiser.*

He advised people to be a *satisficer*, not a maximizer.

Maximizing is worse than perfectionism
because perfectionists are striving to
become better whereas maximizers are always seeking the best and can never
obtain it.

They are always comparing themselves with others. And  Comparisons detract from satisfaction, especially social comparisons. We see some aspect of something that is better for someone else and it reduces our happiness with what we have.

“Satisficers” are those who settle for a
choice that is “good enough” for them
These people are generally happier with
their choice, and spend less time choosing, leaving them free to enjoy other things.

3.  Choice involves loss.

For everything we choose we lose the opportunity of experiencing another thing. What the economists called "forgone alternative".

And that is why the people who always want to choose the ideal spouse or thing are usually never really happy with their choice. They will always feel a sense of regret whenever they see someone choose something better than what they have chosen.

For instance
A miximiser man who want a tall beautiful and fair ladies but end up with a beautiful dark lady who is not so tall because she has the best character among all the ladies he has met. May always feel unhappy whenever he sees a friend marry a tall beautiful fair lady.

Let me add this

4. Cognitive Bias

This is the way an option is presented. Research has proven that this has an unquenchable impact on how or what we think, choose or do. As a communicator this is a very powerful tool to master. (I will discuss this later)

No wonder Prof. Sheena Iyengar, (the inaugural S.T. Lee Professor of Business in the Management Division at Columbia Business School) in her wonderful book 'The Art of Choice' wrote *"Choice is more than picking 'x' over 'y.' It is a responsibility to separate the meaningful and the uplifting from the trivial and the disheartening. It is the only tool we have that enables us to go from who we are today to who we want to be tomorrow".*

Here are some suggestions from my research on how to make us choose better.

1 - Choose when to choose. Make rules
and pre-decide where appropriate.

2 - Be a chooser/satisficer not a picker/maximizer.
Pickers pick from options, choosers evaluate

3 - Try to be satisfied and contented more than being a maximizer. The ideal situation or person doesn't exist. Our happiness comes from loving what we have.

4 - Think of the opportunity costs. Don't compare too many options.
Too many information will end up confusing you.

A neuroscientist Dr. David Levitin described it as *'information overload'* in his book *'The organized mind'*.

5 - Make decisions non-reversible.
When we think there is an option to back out, it stays on our mind.

6 - Have an attitude of gratitude.
Make a list of 5 things you are  thankful to God for every night.

7 - Regret less. Remember that the goodness in what you have may not be in what others have.

8 - Anticipate adaptation.
Think of how good things are right now and  work towards making it better.

9 - Control expectations.
Don't expect too much from you choice be it spouse or other things.

10 - Curtail social comparison.
Think of what makes you happy right now. Don't compare your husband or wife or possession to others. Just focus on making life more meaningful and enjoyable for you and your family.

11 - Learn to love constraints.
Work inside of them. They will strengthen you with the right lessons you need to make better choices in future.

12. Make decisions in the morning after meal .

In the paper "Extraneous factors in judicial decisions ", three researchers (Danzinger, Levav and Avnaim-Pesso, 2010) analyzed the outcomes of more than 1,000 parole judgments in an Israeli court and found more than half of judgments being made favorably in the morning, yet by the end of the session, the rate of favorable judgments reduced drastically.
This reduced ability to make consistent decisions after decision is known as 'decision fatigue'.

Intriguingly, the researchers found that once the judges took a meal break, the favorable decision rate returned practically back to normal.

Another Psychologist Roy Baumeister may have found a cause for this when he identified a link between our blood glucose levels and our ego levels, which are depleted when we are made to make decisions repeatedly.
Consequently, some expert we make our decision to choose around 11am when our blood glucose is still high.

Please share your thoughts with me by clicking on the post a comment box below.

Ishola Ayodele is a Public Relations practitioner and a member of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations.
He offers the following services to Large Corporations, SMEs and Individuals.
Result Oriented Communication,
Effective Crisis Communication,
Effectual Political Communication,
Reputation and Image management,
And Impactful Presentation Coaching.
He can be reached on
BBM 58ED6030,
twitter @ishopr and via

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