the metaphorical fish bowl


β€œYou’re supposed to read this cartoon, and, being a sophisticated person, say, “Ah! What does this fish know? You know, nothing is possible in this fishbowl.” Impoverished imagination, a myopic view of the world — and that’s the way I read it at first. The more I thought about it, however, the more I came to the view that this fish knows something. Because the truth of the matter is that if you shatter the fishbowl so that everything is possible, you don’t have freedom. You have paralysis. If you shatter this fishbowl so that everything is possible, you decrease satisfaction. You increase paralysis, and you decrease satisfaction.

Everybody needs a fishbowl. This one is almost certainly too limited — perhaps even for the fish, certainly for us. But the absence of some metaphorical fishbowl is a recipe for misery, and, I suspect, disaster.”

~ The closing to Barry Schwartz’s TED talk on the paradox of choice

I get paralysed by endless choice.

We’re upgrading our car at the moment, out of necessity, and limiting ourselves to wagon models meant there were a lot less choices (since everything is SUV) which made it easier to choose.

Same goes for renting a house. We’re satisfied as renting provides both financial and physical constraints to what we can spend and do to our place. We can’t spend more on the house than our rent, and we can’t do anything we want to the house, there are limits, and we like those constraints: we feel free.

the downside to modern work

We are blessed with the technology that enables us to work every minute of every day from any place on the planet. So what this means, this incredible freedom of choice we have with respect to work, is that we have to make a decision, again and again and again, about whether we should or shouldn’t be working. We can go to watch our kid play soccer, and we have our cell phone on one hip, and our Blackberry on our other hip, and our laptop, presumably, on our laps. And even if they’re all shut off, every minute that we’re watching our kid mutilate a soccer game, we are also asking ourselves, “Should I answer this cell phone call? Should I respond to this email? Should I draft this letter?” And even if the answer to the question is “no,” it’s certainly going to make the experience of your kid’s soccer game very different than it would’ve been.

Barry Schwartz on the Paradox of Choice and how it applies to work

I work from home for a global company that is always on, which means I am always asking myself whether I should be working at any point. This makes it hard to relax, even if this answer is no I shouldn’t be.

hard times; easy choices

This is a talk I delivered at my local toastmasters club on Monday 17th July, 2017.

In the first four and a half months of this year I visited 10 cities in 4 countries, mostly for work, some for leisure.

In early May, in the midst of this whirlwind of movement, I visited my local library, as I often do, and I was drawn to this book: The Art of Stillness: adventures in going nowhere. I'm not sure why I was so drawn to the book but it ended up in a pile of books that I borrowed that day.

Continue reading hard times; easy choices

the paradox of choice

I remember reading a book a few years ago called ‘The Paradox of Choice’:

Autonomy and Freedom of choice are critical to our well being, and choice is critical to freedom and autonomy.
Nonetheless, though modern Americans have more choice than any group of people ever has before, and thus, presumably, more freedom and autonomy, we don’t seem to be benefiting from it psychologically.
β€”quoted from Ch.5, The Paradox of Choice, 2004
I’ve been struggling with this lately. I try to avoid situations where there are too many choices. Here’s two examples:
itunes movie weekThe iTunes movie of the week is a fantastic idea as each week they have a hand picked movie rental for 99c which is pretty much guaranteed to be a good movie. I love not having to make a choice about what movie to watch, I just watch whatever they’ve chosen for me, for less than a dollar. Today I watched ‘Two Hands‘ (for some reason I had never seen it before) and a few weeks ago I watched ‘The Company Men‘: both were excellent films and even better in that I didn’t need to choose them.
We’re headed to Sri Lanka next April for a family holiday. Rather than try to organize the whole trip by ourselves, I found a local tour operator on TripAdvisor who has organized a 10 day private tour of Sri Lanka. He has organized everything: transport, hotels, sights, meals. We get picked up at the airport and then dropped off there at the end. And it’s amazing that we don’t need to make a single decision about anything.
Businesses need to keep this paradox in mind when marketing goods and services. Too many choices can be a bad thing, somethings things are easier when you don’t need to make a decision about everything.
I think building a house would be the absolutely worse thing I can think of in this regard. Having to make decisions about trivial things (taps, sinks, vanities) would drive me insane. No thanks, I’ll keep things simple and take what’s given to me.