Author Topic: The Paradox of Choice  (Read 1109 times)

ebeard2242

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The Paradox of Choice
« on: December 16, 2020, 10:43:33 PM »
Hello Guys,

I'm not the best with book reviews, but I recently read a book called "The Paradox of Choice" by Barry Schwartz and there were definitely a few key concepts that really stood out to me. I feel that some of the lessons in the book were somewhat opposition to mustachianism, or at least how I have practiced mustachianism in the past, but I feel were nevertheless correct.

Barry indicated that there is a group of people that often spend excessive amounts of time trying to optimize their decisions in life, and these people are called "optimizers".  Optimizers constantly try to get the best deal, best value, perfect this, and perfect that. 

In contrast to optimizers there are "satisficers". Satisficers spend little time quibbling over decision they make in life, but are generally fine with "good enough" decisions. They don't worry about getting the best deal,  perfect job, or making a perfectly written email (or forum post).

The range of decisions Satisficers or Optimizers apply their decision making techniques range from which toaster oven they should buy to which spouse they should choose. 

Barry's research indicated that Optimizers are generally less happy in life.  The very act of constantly weighing pro's and con's pays a heavy psychological toll.  Whereas Satisficers are generally more happy and satisfied with their life and are less prone to depression and negative feelings.

Barry also said that ultimately it is friends and relationships that make us happy in life, not trying to get the perfect ROI on your investment, or attempting to get the perfect cheese that matches your wine.  Go for good enough and then just chill.

I feel like a lot of Mustachians, including myself, are much more on the Optimizer side of the spectrum.  I often see people on this forum experiencing "buyers remorse" because they felt they overspent on something, which is often experienced by Optimizers.  This is a negative feeling and should be avoided.  You should instead be perfectly fine with your decision, understand you were making the correct decision based on the data that was available to you at the time, and not worry about the fact that you could have made a more optimal decision, because at the end of the day it probably wouldn't have a major impact on the quality of your life anyway.  What does have an impact on the quality of your life are your relationships, focus on those instead.

I often will spend inordinate amounts of time trying to figure out how I can save a couple of dollars here or there, when really I'd yield greater returns on my happiness by just picking something, living with that decision, and then going out with my friends to hang out or going on a date and meeting a new chick.  I cannot even imagine how much further my existing relationships would be and many more relationships I would have if I wasn't spending time worrying about optimizing for stuff that wouldn't make me happy, or that I had already optimized enough for already.

However, I do understand that we need to toe the line somewhat.  If we made every decision on a whim, then we probably wouldn't be at a good place in life.  There's definitely a balancing act to be had here.

What areas of your guys' thoughts on the book? Can you share anything else that's relevant to this book? I feel like many people on this forums reaction would be that this is "face punch" worthy material, and to that I would say, the data speaks for itself.  If you think being a satisficer is "soft" or "lazy" then you probably need a solid look in the mirror.



« Last Edit: December 16, 2020, 10:50:33 PM by ebeard2242 »

Malcat

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Re: The Paradox of Choice
« Reply #1 on: December 17, 2020, 07:12:20 AM »
I'm absolutely not an "Optimizer" in the sense of compulsively analyzing things.

I've always prioritized efficiency because I'm good at it, and a big part of efficiency is evaluating how much thinking one can afford to just not do. I built my career around efficiency and not over thinking things, which allowed me to work at an astronomical pace in a field where speed was money.

There are pros and cons to everything.

Where you fall on the spectrum depends on how much you value your time and mental energy compared to the value of the possible optimizations.

Anyone who is too dogmatic in either direction is going to end up living suboptimally. Some decisions deserve very careful deliberation and some don't. It's up to the individual to decide where what balance works for them.

What's unfortunate and common is that someone will find a pattern of behaviour that benefits them in some meaningful way and generalize it to the rest of their life, regardless of the toll it takes on them. It can become a form of identity, which creates stress if they don't sustain that behaviour.

Since I stopped working, I actively strive to breakdown my habits of efficiency. I have all the time in the world, I don't need to be efficient, which involves always anticipating and sequencing next moves. Who cares how many times I have to open a drawer while I'm cooking?

I used to work in an environment where shaving seconds off of a sequence mattered. It would have been very easy to have efficiency be my identity, but it isn't. It's just something I'm good at.

Likewise, optimizing doesn't need to be an identity, it can just be a tool that one chooses to use when it's appropriate.

The less we feel attached to behaviours as identities, the more flexible and useful those behaviours can become in our lives, and the less angst we can have.

NotJen

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Re: The Paradox of Choice
« Reply #2 on: December 17, 2020, 07:34:55 AM »
I have not read this book, just your summary.

I'm definitely somewhere in the middle.  I love finding a deal on something I need to buy.  I like to research.  I love to plan.  But I've never been a perfectionist (too lazy for that).

Long ago, I realized I would always be settling for "good enough" - there is no perfect anything - endless research would get me nowhere - so when I make a big purchase, I make a list of the most important qualities I'm looking for in something, and decide based on those few factors.  I also learned how to be critical of online reviews - ignoring complaints that didn't matter to me, or were based on unrealistic expectations.  I abandon purchases if I truly cannot make a decision in a reasonable amount of time.  I never have experienced buyers remorse that I can recall.  I make my purchase, don't look back, and am very happy.

I like to read travel forums and find people agonizing over the lowest price of airline tickets.  Everyone has an opinion.  My strategy is to research prices and options, and book when I find a price that I can live with.  THEN I NEVER LOOK AT PRICES FOR THAT TRIP AGAIN.  No point in figuring out if I got the lowest price or highest price - I got the ticket I needed when I needed it, and I'm perfectly fine with that.

understand you were making the correct decision based on the data that was available to you at the time

I often remind people of this when they are complaining about "bad" decisions they made.

utaca

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Re: The Paradox of Choice
« Reply #3 on: December 17, 2020, 09:55:23 AM »
The less we feel attached to behaviours as identities, the more flexible and useful those behaviours can become in our lives, and the less angst we can have.

Very insightful and I strongly agree. This is particularly applicable to identities based on work (which is essentially just a series of controlled behaviours).

ebeard2242

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Re: The Paradox of Choice
« Reply #4 on: December 21, 2020, 02:15:30 PM »
I'm absolutely not an "Optimizer" in the sense of compulsively analyzing things.

I've always prioritized efficiency because I'm good at it, and a big part of efficiency is evaluating how much thinking one can afford to just not do. I built my career around efficiency and not over thinking things, which allowed me to work at an astronomical pace in a field where speed was money.

There are pros and cons to everything.

Where you fall on the spectrum depends on how much you value your time and mental energy compared to the value of the possible optimizations.

Anyone who is too dogmatic in either direction is going to end up living suboptimally. Some decisions deserve very careful deliberation and some don't. It's up to the individual to decide where what balance works for them.

What's unfortunate and common is that someone will find a pattern of behaviour that benefits them in some meaningful way and generalize it to the rest of their life, regardless of the toll it takes on them. It can become a form of identity, which creates stress if they don't sustain that behaviour.

Since I stopped working, I actively strive to breakdown my habits of efficiency. I have all the time in the world, I don't need to be efficient, which involves always anticipating and sequencing next moves. Who cares how many times I have to open a drawer while I'm cooking?

I used to work in an environment where shaving seconds off of a sequence mattered. It would have been very easy to have efficiency be my identity, but it isn't. It's just something I'm good at.

Likewise, optimizing doesn't need to be an identity, it can just be a tool that one chooses to use when it's appropriate.

The less we feel attached to behaviours as identities, the more flexible and useful those behaviours can become in our lives, and the less angst we can have.

Maybe check out this book https://www.amazon.com/Lazy-Efficiency-Making-Sadder-Productive/dp/0349422249/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=celeste+headlee&qid=1608585267&sr=8-3

I read one of her other books called "Do Nothing" and I thought it was very interesting and I enjoyed it.

Malcat

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Re: The Paradox of Choice
« Reply #5 on: December 21, 2020, 02:32:45 PM »

Maybe check out this book https://www.amazon.com/Lazy-Efficiency-Making-Sadder-Productive/dp/0349422249/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=celeste+headlee&qid=1608585267&sr=8-3

I read one of her other books called "Do Nothing" and I thought it was very interesting and I enjoyed it.

Were you suggesting this book for me or in general?

ender

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Re: The Paradox of Choice
« Reply #6 on: December 21, 2020, 02:41:36 PM »
I should read this book.

I started out as a 99.99% optimizer but experience this:

Quote
Barry's research indicated that Optimizers are generally less happy in life.  The very act of constantly weighing pro's and con's pays a heavy psychological toll.  Whereas Satisficers are generally more happy and satisfied with their life and are less prone to depression and negative feelings.

In the last few years I've actually started being intentionally less optimizer, which does impact my savings rate, but find that my life overall feels better.

ebeard2242

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Re: The Paradox of Choice
« Reply #7 on: December 22, 2020, 09:45:07 AM »
Were you suggesting this book for me or in general?

Yes, for you.

I should read this book.

In the last few years I've actually started being intentionally less optimizer, which does impact my savings rate, but find that my life overall feels better.

Same here. My savings rate will be negatively impacted by this philosophy as well, but my willingness to tolerate life before attaining FI will also be greater.  I'll also be focusing on fostering relationships more in my life, as that is clearly one of the few things that significantly impact well-being, as mentioned in the book. So I may see an increases in costs in eating out (probably will order cheaper items on the menu), gas/parking/uber costs from going out, ticket costs for events/concerts, classes, etc. 

Malcat

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Re: The Paradox of Choice
« Reply #8 on: December 22, 2020, 01:14:41 PM »
Were you suggesting this book for me or in general?

Yes, for you.

I should read this book.

In the last few years I've actually started being intentionally less optimizer, which does impact my savings rate, but find that my life overall feels better.

Same here. My savings rate will be negatively impacted by this philosophy as well, but my willingness to tolerate life before attaining FI will also be greater.  I'll also be focusing on fostering relationships more in my life, as that is clearly one of the few things that significantly impact well-being, as mentioned in the book. So I may see an increases in costs in eating out (probably will order cheaper items on the menu), gas/parking/uber costs from going out, ticket costs for events/concerts, classes, etc.

Ah, then thank you but no thank you. I'm pretty hardcore about establishing my own needs through introspection and reflection these days. I prefer to avoid prescriptive content.

hipsail

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Re: The Paradox of Choice
« Reply #9 on: December 23, 2020, 08:26:05 AM »
Were you suggesting this book for me or in general?

Yes, for you.

I should read this book.

In the last few years I've actually started being intentionally less optimizer, which does impact my savings rate, but find that my life overall feels better.

Same here. My savings rate will be negatively impacted by this philosophy as well, but my willingness to tolerate life before attaining FI will also be greater.  I'll also be focusing on fostering relationships more in my life, as that is clearly one of the few things that significantly impact well-being, as mentioned in the book. So I may see an increases in costs in eating out (probably will order cheaper items on the menu), gas/parking/uber costs from going out, ticket costs for events/concerts, classes, etc.

Ah, then thank you but no thank you. I'm pretty hardcore about establishing my own needs through introspection and reflection these days. I prefer to avoid prescriptive content.

I like that you brought this up. I used to devour these types of books but I recently had the lightbulb moment where I was like, wait, why would this random person have a better idea about my life than me? And I found that the authors don't have lives I personally would want to live so what is the point of me taking their advice?

It's often said that in general we need to have more open minds to different ideas, but in my case, I noticed I was actually too open to prescriptive advice that doesn't serve me. My mind was blown.

Malcat

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Re: The Paradox of Choice
« Reply #10 on: December 23, 2020, 09:35:40 AM »
Were you suggesting this book for me or in general?

Yes, for you.

I should read this book.

In the last few years I've actually started being intentionally less optimizer, which does impact my savings rate, but find that my life overall feels better.

Same here. My savings rate will be negatively impacted by this philosophy as well, but my willingness to tolerate life before attaining FI will also be greater.  I'll also be focusing on fostering relationships more in my life, as that is clearly one of the few things that significantly impact well-being, as mentioned in the book. So I may see an increases in costs in eating out (probably will order cheaper items on the menu), gas/parking/uber costs from going out, ticket costs for events/concerts, classes, etc.

Ah, then thank you but no thank you. I'm pretty hardcore about establishing my own needs through introspection and reflection these days. I prefer to avoid prescriptive content.

I like that you brought this up. I used to devour these types of books but I recently had the lightbulb moment where I was like, wait, why would this random person have a better idea about my life than me? And I found that the authors don't have lives I personally would want to live so what is the point of me taking their advice?

It's often said that in general we need to have more open minds to different ideas, but in my case, I noticed I was actually too open to prescriptive advice that doesn't serve me. My mind was blown.

I went to school for a very long time where people told me what the "truth" was and told me how I was to behave.

I've had enough of that for a lifetime.

Also, I don't subscribe to anyone being any kind of authority on behaviour.

John Galt incarnate!

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Re: The Paradox of Choice
« Reply #11 on: December 26, 2020, 02:50:09 PM »

Barry indicated that there is a group of people that often spend excessive amounts of time trying to optimize their decisions in life, and these people are called "optimizers".  Optimizers constantly try to get the best deal, best value, perfect this, and perfect that. 


Having no time limits  enables me to  assiduously  weigh my inputs whenever I am  considering a new undertaking, project, objective, etc.

In these situations I am an optimizer but not obsessively so.

My central consideration is a quid pro quo analysis:  For all of my exertions/other inputs  what I will receive in return is determinative.

After deciding to proceed or not I never fret: My carefully weighed decision has been made.

As to purchases, a "good deal" or regular retail pricing  usually suffices.

« Last Edit: December 26, 2020, 02:52:18 PM by John Galt incarnate! »

John Galt incarnate!

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Re: The Paradox of Choice
« Reply #12 on: December 26, 2020, 03:07:20 PM »
Quote from: hipsail link=topic=119673.msg2758140#msg2758140



I like that you brought this up. I used to devour these types of books but I recently had the lightbulb moment where I was like, wait, why would this random person have a better idea about my life than me? And I found that the authors don't have lives I personally would want to live so what is the point of me taking their advice?

It's often said that in general we need to have more open minds to different ideas, but in my case, I noticed I was actually too open to prescriptive advice that doesn't serve me. My mind was blown.

I cannot overstate the cruciality of one's knowing of their own  mind.

It is  key to their happiness and contentment.
« Last Edit: December 26, 2020, 03:13:59 PM by John Galt incarnate! »

ender

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Re: The Paradox of Choice
« Reply #13 on: December 27, 2020, 09:00:33 PM »
Book showed up today, going to give it a read in the next few weeks :-)

ender

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Re: The Paradox of Choice
« Reply #14 on: January 05, 2021, 09:49:11 AM »
Been reading this, thanks for the recommendation.

ebeard2242

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Re: The Paradox of Choice
« Reply #15 on: January 08, 2021, 08:46:21 PM »
Been reading this, thanks for the recommendation.

Np, Glad your enjoying it.