Overcoming the paradox of choice to live a happier life: Step 1

Having too many choices in our lives is stressful. With a whole world of partners to choose from, how will we ever be sure we’re with the right person? With an entire aisle filled with breakfast cereals, how could we possibly have chosen the best one? Being able to be a pilot, wife, internet guru, race car driver, animator, teacher, mom, artist, business person……. or anything else we want – how will we know we’re doing the work we most want to do?

“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.”
—quoted from Ch.5, The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz
In short, if we have the freedom to be and do anything we want – why aren’t we all happier? Barry Schwartz explains it well in this TED Talk video. 

I can’t speak for the rest of you, but I have to admit that I often find all that choice exhausting. Let’s face it – there’s an awful lot of responsibility in being the only one in charge of your destiny. No one to blame if things go wrong, no one to yell at when you’re having a bad day, no one to tell you what the right answer is so you can stop agonizing over a decision that needs to be made.

The power is all in your own hands. Now, is this daunting to realize? YES. But if you accept that just because you CAN do anything (or everything) you want to, doesn’t mean you HAVE TO, then you will find a weight lifting from your shoulders and hopefully be able to focus on the things you ARE doing, rather then the ‘SHOULD BE DOING’ list.

It’s amazing how many times I’ve had similar conversations with people about feeling overwhelmed (on my side, and theirs!). Too much to do, not enough hours in the day, not enough sleep, not enough time with family, not enough… anything it seems.

Today, I challenge you to carve 3-5 minutes out of your busy schedule and do the following activity with me. 

I’ve narrowed it down to 3 options, so you don’t have to stress about the fact that there are too many choices! Don’t over think this, go with your gut. Pick the one that’s most true for you right now: 

  1. I would be happier if I had more time to spend with friends and family. 
  2. I would be happier if I was feeling better about my health/getting more exercise.
  3. I would be happier if I had a different job. 
Use the comment form below (or tweet @cjstranaghan #happyif ) to tell me which of the 3 best describes you right now. Not only are you more likely to make a change if you make your intentions public, but I’ll prioritize the order of my posts to help you actually take the first steps towards making yourself happier based on the feedback I get from readers.

I’m going to focus on #2. I think I spend too much time at a desk and I’m not getting enough physical activity lately and I would be happier if I was exercising more.  What are you going to focus on?

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Crystal Stranaghan headshot

Crystal Stranaghan
Writer. Health Psychologist. Wordpress Nerd. Publishing Consultant. Book Geek. E-learning Creator. Foodie. I get called all kinds of names. If you come find me on social media, just call me Crystal.


  1. says

    Definitely option B. Over the last year or two I’ve already taken steps to address A and C, so the only one remaining is B. Not to mention the fact that I turn 40 this year and I’d like to hit that milestone with a big, fat roundhouse kick to the head. 😉

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