Barry Schwartz

Reading Now by Anne Kreamer

The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less.   Social theorist at Swarthmore College, Barry Schwartz, makes a compelling argument against the mushrooming of choice in our lives.  "We assume that more choice means better options and greater satisfaction.  But beware of choice overload:  it 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."  Here are a few of my favorite insights about our working lives:

" According to a survey conducted by Yankelovich Partners, a majority of people want more control over the details of their lives, but a majority of people also want to simplify their lives.  There you have it – the paradox of our times."

"After people choose a career path, new choices face them.  The telecommunications revolution has created enormous flexibility about when and where many people can work.  …And this means that whether or not we work has become a matter of hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute choice.  And whom do we work for?  Here, too, it seems that every day we face a choice.  The average American thirty-two-year-old has already worked for nine different companies.  In an article a few years ago about the increasingly peripatetic American work force, U.S. News and World Report estimated that 17 million Americans would voluntarily leave their jobs in 1999 to take other employment."

"It means that the questions “Where should I work?” and “What kind of work should I do?” are never resolved.  Nothing is ever settled.  The antennae for new and better opportunities are always active.  People can never relax and enjoy what they have already achieved.

"Existence, at least human existence, is defined by the choices people make."

"The process of goal-setting and decision making begins with the question:  'What do I want?'  On the surface, this looks as if it should be easy to answer.  The welter of information out there in the world notwithstanding, 'What do I want' is address largely through internal dialogue.  But knowing what we want means, in essence, being able to anticipate accurately how one choice or another will make us feel, and that is no simple task. "