The Harkey Blog

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz

I am so glad that God brought this book into my path at this time in my life. As we are contemplating, planning for and implementing great change in our lives including career change for Brett and a move for us all, this book gives wise counsel.

The concept of choice has been an occasional discussion topic of ours (Brett’s and mine). We’ve talked about how Apple has done things right with a few choices for consumers and how the food industry has done it wrong, with an overwhelming number of choices in the pickle section alone. I’ve shared with Brett several times what an exhausting thing shopping at a grocery store can be for me. Buying eggs alone involves asking a number of questions. 1. What can I afford? 2. What is the “healthiest” choice? And according to whom? 3. What store might have a better price or a more healthful option? And am I going there any time soon? 4. How many eggs do I need? 5. Why does everything in this country have to be “grain fed”? Isn’t that bad for us? If eggs take that much thought, just imagine a product that has multiple ingredients.

But anyway, back to the book. Reading this book made me even more aware of the thousands of choices I make every day. Additionally through reading Schwartz’ research, I understand much more about expectations, comparisons, and adaptation in relation to choice.

Here are just a few of the things that I learned:
1. Something amazing can happen to you (for instance, you win the lottery). Initially, you are very happy, but over time, you get used to the money, and you may even be less happy than you were prior to winning. This occurs because you have a new normal. You have adapted. That new normal involves having lots of money and material goods. Now you need something more to make you happy.

2. Being grateful is a choice that we can all make that will change our happiness.

3. Limiting choices for ourselves is healthy.

4. If we keep special things (expensive dinners, using the nice dishes, dressing up, etc.) for special occasions only, we keep our expectations low and thereby keep our satisfaction higher. The more and more we eat fancy, expensive dinners, the more they become our norm, and it takes more to satisfy us.

5. Once you’ve made a choice, you’ll be happier if you stick with it rather than constantly re-evaluating your decision. For me, a good place to apply this is in curriculum selection. In the homeschool world, there seems to be a lot of pressure to find the perfect curriculum for each subject for each child in your family. I have only been homeschooling for 4 years, and the hours and hours I have spent agonizing over choosing curriculum have been unbelievable. I do not personally know any homeschool mom who has stuck with her initial choice of curriculum. Through reading this book, I have decided that I am going to stick with the curriculum that I have chosen from now on unless we encounter major problems. And by major problems, I mean that either my children are in tears every day or they can’t read or do math by age 10.

6. When we have too many choices, we usually freeze up and choose not to decide.

7. We can become paralyzed by all the “what ifs” of a choice.

There is much more that I could share, but I hope through this post, I have at least spurred you to think. And, as a bonus, here are a couple of interesting talks that pertain to this subject. (They are PG rated.--Thought you parents would want to know that so you can watch at the right time.)

Malcolm Gladwell on Spaghetti Sauce
Barry Schwartz on The Paradox of Choice

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  • I'm so glad that this book was helpful to you. I appreciate you recommending it. These points that of his that you summarized seem right. I will put it on my list of future reads.

    By Anonymous David, at 8:04 PM  

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

On my Bookshelf

My friend, Virginia, posted on her blog about books she read in 2009. I read it, then I racked my brain to remember what I read last year. I know I did read--lots of books and parts of books, and a lot of children's books. I need to be better about setting aside time for my own personal reading.

Anyway, this is not an exhaustive list, but I did read The Help, The China Study, In Defense of Food, part of Parenting with Love and Logic (want to get back to that one), a quick skimming of Late, Lost and Unprepared (need to re-check that too), Crazy Love. And I truly enjoyed listening to The Witch of Blackbird Pond audiobook with my kids.

This year, first on my list are Three Cups of Tea, given to me by my Mother-in-Law for Christmas, The Paradox of Choice and Making it All Work. I'd love to read A Thousand Splendid Suns, too, but I'll have to gear up for that one.

I am super excited about 's Bible Reading plans. I have chosen the chronological plan from their website, and I have it set up on my RSS feed reader. So far, this has worked amazingly well for me. I am already checking my RSS feeds each day and my Bible reading assignment shows up there, just waiting to be read. This incorporates Bible reading into an already existing habit of my life. Perfect.


  • Elise, how is life any news on the house? I have been uplifting it!

    By Blogger Kat, at 10:50 PM  

  • Kathryn, We've had 2 showings within this past week. I am praying for an offer by my birthday--1/26

    By Blogger Elise, at 3:50 PM  

  • I'll continue to uplift it!

    By Blogger Kat, at 9:07 AM  

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