How many varieties of toothpaste are there? 44? 72? 257?
Whatever the number, it's more than any of us will ever try in our lifetimes. Have you ever had that little niggling thought that you should try a new toothpaste ... maybe one with whiteners? or baking soda because it tastes so bad it's bound to be good for you? or maybe one of those swirly ones that give you two-in-one something or others? If so, you may be falling victim to the Choice Syndrome.
In an article by Barry Schwartz in the April, 2004 issue of "Scientific American," the author states that more choices may make some of us less happy rather than more. The problem is that more choices make the decision more difficult ... and leaves more options unexplored. For a certain type of person (termed a "maximizer -- those who always aim to make the best possible choice), the proliferation of options elevates the level of frustration and stress. "Satisficers" (those who aim for good enough), on the other hand, do not seem as stressed by over-abundance of variety.
To determine whether you are a maximizer or a satisficer ...
To determine whether you are a maximizer or a satisficer, you can take the 13 question assessment shown in the article, or you can just think through your last major purchase. Did you look at dozens of houses (cars, stereos, boats, or other non-impulse item) and spend months weighing the merits of each? (If so, you may be a Maximizer) Or, did you see something you liked that seemed to fit your needs and you bought it, sometimes the same day you decided to start looking? (If so, you may be a Satisficer.)
If you are a Maximizer, more choices may significantly add to your stress and frustration and cause you to have buyer's remorse and failed expectations.
The author has four suggestions for avoiding the problems created by too many choices:
-- Choose when to choose. We can decide to restrict our options when the decision is not crucial. For example, make a rule to visit no more than two stores when shopping for clothing.
-- Learn to accept "good enough." Settle for a choice that meets your core requirements rather than searching for the elusive "best." Then stop thinking about it.
-- Don't worry about what you're missing. Consciously limit how much you ponder the seemingly attractive features of options you reject. Teachy yourself to focus on the positive parts of the selections you make.
-- Control expectations. "Don't expect too much and you won't be disappointed" is a cliche. But that advice is sensible if you want to be more satisfied with life.
The studies cited in this article fit my personal view: People don't want choices ... they just want exactly what they want.