Paradox of Choice - Barry Schwartz

Paradox of Choice - Barry Schwartz

Video Book Summary

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Book Summary Notes

The Paradox of Choice

“The fact that some choice is good doesn’t necessarily mean that more choice is better." 

"As I will demonstrate, there is a cost to having an overload of choice. As a culture, we are enamored of freedom, self-determination, and variety, and we are reluctant to give up any of our options.

"But clinging tenaciously to all the choices available to us contributes to bad decisions, to anxiety, stress, and dissatisfaction— even to clinical depression.”

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by choice?

  • Maybe you have to choose what job to get, what book to read or what school to go too..  
  • What makes those things difficult?

The shear amount of choice we have in the modern world is one thing..  

The possible regret of making the wrong choice is another..

Humans haven't had this amount of choice at any other time in history..  

While all of it seems good..  Barry argues that the shear amount of choices we have is deteriorating our mental health!

Inside the Mind Map we're going to look into why that might be happening..

Plus I pulled out some practical tips to help you overcome the paradox of choice!

Mind Mapping

Get the most out of these Mind Maps by following along..  

Find the process of HOW I Map plus all 50+ Mind Map templates (including this one) at the link below! 

Following along will help you learn more, remember better and apply these books to your life. 

The Arguments

“Throughout the book, you will learn about a wide range of research findings from psychologists, economists, market researchers, and decision scientists, all related to choice and decision making." 

"There are important lessons to be learned from this research, some of them not so obvious, and others even counterintuitive. For example, I will argue that:"

1. We would be better off if we embraced voluntary constraints on our freedom of choice, instead of rebelling against them.

2. We would be better off seeking what was “good enough” instead of seeking the best (have you ever heard a parent say, “I want only the ‘good enough’ for my kids?”).

3. We would be better off if we lowered our expectations about the results of decisions.

4. We would be better off is the decisions we made were nonreversible.

5. We would be better off if we paid less attention to what others around us were doing.

"These conclusions fly in the face of conventional wisdom that the more choices people have, the better off they are, that the best way to get good results is to have very high standards, and that it’s always better to have a way to back out of a decision than not. What I hope to show is that the conventional wisdom is wrong, at least when it comes to what satisfies us in the decisions we make.”

What are your initial reactions to these points?

Take some time to think before we get into the rest of the book..  

What are your beliefs around choice, abundance and innovation?

  • Are you the type of person who always needs the next new thing?
  • Do you hold yourself to a really high standard when it comes to certain things in life?
  • How do you deal with the feeling that you might have made the wrong choice?
  • What is your relationship to comparison? 

These are all thought strings deep in our minds that it may take time to unravel..  

  • But these questions are good to ask yourself on a frequent basis!
  • Some of these same questions are what I take my coaching clients through when they are dealing with self criticism, doubt or indecision.  
  • Are you dealing with any of those?  If so I would like to help..  Check the link below for a free Sample Coaching Session!

Only The Best?

“Choosing wisely begins with developing a clear understanding of your goals. And the first choice you must make is between the goal of choosing the absolute best and the goal of choosing something that is good enough."

"If you seek and accept only the best, you are a maximizer... Maximizers need to be assured that every purchase or decision was the best that could be made. Yet how can anyone truly know that any given option is absolutely the best possible? ... As a decision strategy, maximizing creates a daunting task, which becomes all the more daunting as the number of options increases."

"The alternative to maximizing is to be a satisficer. To satisfice is to settle for something that is good enough and not worry about the possibility that there might be something better. A satisficer has criteria and standards. She searches until she finds an item that meets those standards, and at that point, she stops.”

“The difference between the two types is that the satisficer is content with the merely excellent as opposed to the absolute best."

"I believe that the goal of maximizing is a source of great dissatisfaction, that it can make people miserable—especially in a world that insists on providing an overwhelming number of choices, both trivial and not so trivial.”

Which category do you fall into?  Maximizer or Satisfixer..

Well..  It might depend on the domain we're talking about!

“The truth is that maximizing and satisficing orientations tend to be “domain specific.” Nobody is a maximizer in every decision, and probably everybody is in some. Perhaps what distinguishes maximizers from satisficers is the range and number of decisions in which an individual operates as one or the other."

"This is good news, because what it means is that most of us have the capacity to be satisficers. The task, then, for someone who feels overwhelmed by choices, is to apply the satisficing strategy more often, letting go of the expectation that “the best” is attainable.”

Let's take some time to write them down

I tend to be a Maximizer:

Fitness and Nutrition

Business and Career

I tend to be a Satisficer:



Now lets go through an exercise..  

  • How much time are you spending thinking (stressing) about your Maximizer domains?
  • How much time are you spending thinking (stressing) about your Satisficer domains?
  • Now..  Let's try to determine if the Maximizer 'juice' is really worth the squeeze!


“The news I’ve reported is not good. Here we are, living at the pinnacle of human possibility, awash in material abundance. As a society, we have achieved what our ancestors could, at most, only dream about, but it has come at a great price." 

"We get what we say we want, only to discover that what we want doesn’t satisfy us to the degree we expect. We are surrounded by modern, time-saving devices, but we never seem to have enough time. We are free to be the authors of our own lives, but we don’t know exactly what kind of lives we want to “write.”

"The “success” of modernity turns out to be bittersweet, and everywhere we look it appears that a significant contributing factor is the overabundance of choice. Having too many choices produces psychological distress, especially when combined with regret, concern about status, adaptation, social comparison, and perhaps most important, the desire to have the best of everything—to maximize."

"I believe there are steps we can take to mitigate—even eliminate—many of these sources of distress, but they aren’t easy. They require practice, discipline, and perhaps a new way of thinking. On the other hand, each of these steps will bring its own rewards.”

Now that we see how choice is potentially eroding our mental states..  What might we do about it?

Barry says here that each of the practices (which we'll talk about later) will require practice, discipline and a new way of thinking..

Now why might this be?  Isn't it just a process of eliminating choice..

  • Sort of..  But choice is abundant in our society and putting unneeded restrictions on that choice can feel quite restrictive!
  • Actually..  If you think about it; restricting your choice is just putting more pressure on the choices you do make!
  • This may cause us to create a pretty unhealthy relationship with choice!

So what might we focus on in order to develop a healthy relationship with choice?

  • I believe that most behavior change starts at the level of thought..  Once we're able to change the way we think in a situation we often find it easy or natural to change our actions!
  • The book showcases over 11 things we can do about the paradox of choice..  I have chosen the two that I think can help you change the way you think about choice most effectively!


“We can vastly improve our subjective experience by consciously striving to be grateful more often for what is good about a choice or an experience, and to be disappointed less by what is bad..."

"It may seem demeaning to accept the idea that experiencing gratitude takes practice. Why not just tell yourself that “starting tomorrow, I’m going to pay more attention to what’s good in my life,” and be done with it? The answer is that habits of thought die hard. Chances are good that if you gave yourself that general directive, you won’t actually follow it. Instead you might consider adopting a simple routine:"

"1. Keep a notepad at your bedside."

"2. Every morning, when you wake up, or every night, when you go to bed, use the notepad to list five things that happened the day before that you’re grateful for. These objects of gratitude occasionally will be big (a job promotion, a great first date), but most of the time, they will be small (sunlight streaming in through the bedroom window, a kind word from a friend, a piece of swordfish cooked just the way you like it, an informative article in a magazine)."

"3. You will probably feel a little silly and even self-conscious when you start doing this. But if you keep it up, you will find that it gets easier and easier, more and more natural. You may also find yourself discovering many things to be grateful for on even the most ordinary of days. Finally, you may find yourself feeling better and better about your life as it is, and less and less driven to find the “new and improved” products and activities that will enhance it.”

Gratitude is probably the single most important practice (aside from meditation) that I have implemented..

At first it does feel a little weird..  But I'll tell you what; eventually you start to look forward too it!

The great part about gratitude for me is the pattern interrupt..

  • Being a busy business owner I tend to have a lot of 'pending' things on my mind which can be stressful..  
  • Maybe I lose a contract or don't close a sale and I end up sliding into a negative headspace for weeks!
  • But when I sit down and try to look for some really small things that I'm grateful for it interrupts that pattern and I can move into a more positive headspace..

Actually it's a great tool to pattern interrupt other people as well..

  • What are the three smallest things you're grateful for?
  • How could you be grateful for this situation?
  • Two coaching questions I ask my clients all the time!  

Try this Now:

  • Write Down Three Things You're Grateful For:


“We evaluate the quality of our experiences by comparing ourselves to others. Though social comparison can provide useful information, it often reduces our satisfaction. So by comparing ourselves to others less, we will be satisfied more."

"Social comparison seems sufficiently destructive to our sense of well-being that it is worthwhile to remind ourselves to do it less. Because it is easier for a satisficer to avoid social comparison than for a maximizer, learning that “good enough” is good enough may automatically reduce concern with how others are doing."

"Following the other suggestions I’ve made may sometimes mean that when judged by an absolute standard, the results of decisions will be less good than they might otherwise have been—all the more reason to fight the tendency to make social comparisons."

"1. Remember that “He who dies with the most toys wins” is a bumper sticker, not wisdom."

"2. Focus on what makes you happy, and what gives meaning to your life.”

Keeping up with the Jonses is one of the most harmful things you can do..

But it's not just because you're spending more on houses, cars or furniture!

Actually it's because of the toxic mindset it create.. 

  • Externally it looks like you're working hard and buying nice things!
  • But internally you're motivating yourself through judgement based on other peoples opinions..
  • This is quite simply your internal critic taking on the voice of other peoples opinions..  Making it even stronger!

Focus on What Makes You Happy and Gives Meaning to Your Life



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