More Freedom Does Not Mean More Happiness
We live in a world with so many choices. You would think that it is making us happier. However, more choices do not make us happier, and here is why.
It is clear that we value the number of choices we have. In a world with much variety, our demands constantly drive the market to create more. We want options, and so we should. After all, a world with no options would look bland and dim our happiness.
We naturally enjoy comparing things. It is part of our innate curiosity to try new things and experience more than we already have. And it is great to know that we have the option to explore as much as we want.
Our demand for more choices is driving our social media. We are constantly on the hunt for new content creators and want them to appear quickly. There is no wonder why we have reels and short-form content we can flick through to exercise our power of choice.
We love knowing that we have more options. And it is our love for more that drives the market. It is also fair to say that the number of options we have is our freedom. The more choices we have, the freer we are to pursue whatever we want.
However, freedom is not the issue. The problem arises when we equate our happiness to the number of options we have. It is a common way to think, and we have probably all done it at one point.
For example, saying something like, if only I had enough money/time is a way to express our limitations. We may feel limited by time and money and hence feel less free. As a result, we become unhappy because we have fewer options due to our inability to choose them.
Many people are upset because of choices they can not make. They are full of dissatisfaction due to the options that are not available to them. But what if I told you that our happiness is not derived from the number of choices we have. Instead, it is about our attitude to making choices.
We Are Less Happy With More Choices
The saying, “more money, more problems.” made no sense to me as a student. I was broke as hell, and an extra £10 every week would have certainly made my life happier.
However, as I am getting older, I now understand the value of it. If we assume that most of us seek to maximise our happiness, more money will bring about more problems. As our bank accounts grow, we now have more options available to us.
We now need to think about how much we want to invest and save. Plus, where we want to live and what our ideal salary is. Not to mention, looking after ourselves more by going to the gym or buying healthier foods.
As we try to maximise our happiness with our use of money, we become less happy with the number of choices we need to filter through. Oh, how we wish someone would tell us the answer rather than leave us to choose from an array of options.
There is now an abundance of services to choose from that will make choices for you. People no longer want to compare things in the market because it takes too long. They will just pay someone to do it to save them time. They will ask these supposed “guru’s” where to invest their money, how to become rich, and what diet is best for their body.
Barry Schwartz, the author of the paradox of choice, makes it clear in his book. Too many choices make us less happy. Unfortunately, there is a sweet spot that is hard to define for the number of choices we want. Nevertheless, we continue to demand more.
If you think about it, we are species that often limits our freedom purposely. We seek monogamous relationships and form habits to live our lives. We are not as fluid and free as we think we are. We tend to resist change because we like keeping things the same.
There is no hiding that men in monogamous relationships live longer and happier lives. Not to mention, most of our lives are habits that we do not even think about to make living easier. Happiness does not spring from freedom. Instead, it appears to come from the limitations we choose to put on our lives.
So if more choices are not what we need, what do we need then? Well, some have tried to answer this with a method that leads to even more unhappiness. And it is the idea of maximising value from your choices.
Happiness Does Not Come From Maximising Value
If I told you that you should think hard about the choices you make, you would agree. We all should choose carefully and ensure that our choices align with our happiness.
Unfortunately, this advice is somewhat floored. Yes, on the surface level, we should think about our choices and try to bring about our happiness from them. The problem is, we have a very high standard for happiness, and most of ours are unattainable.
We believe we need so much to be happy because we are constantly comparing our lives to others. Not to mention, we have now made our lives harder thanks to the web. We now have no excuse to pick unsatisfying choices due to all the information we can gather from one search on the web.
However, if we seek to maximise each choice we have, we make the process of choosing miserable. Buying a pair of shoes is no longer just walking into the store and picking up a pair that can do the job. We have to think about more than size. We may need to consider longevity, colour, weight and reviews of the shoe.
Maximising our choices takes time and effort, and we find that happiness maximisers tend to be unhappy at the end of their choice. The joy of picking the best product on the market is lost by the sheer time and effort it takes to do so.
Unfortunately, this does not apply just to your shopping life. Looking for a relationship, setting goals, and how we perceive happiness are all affected by trying to maximise.
Instead of being happy with our current partner, we may always be thinking if we could do better. The goals we set will never be enough to achieve what we want. Unfortunately, happiness becomes a mass calculation of choice rather than a feeling we can hold onto today.
Happiness Comes From Choosing to Be Satisfied
A lot of our lives is increasing the number of choices we have. We go for promotions to earn more money to get more choices. We level up in status to potentially have more power. And we may move area or country to get more options.
We spend a lot of our time increasing the number of options we have with only the capacity to choose a few. The number of choices we have does not lead to more happiness. In most cases, it leads to more stress and problems in the long run.
Funny enough, even making the perfect choice does not lead to more happiness either. We will never be 100% sure if we have maximised our happiness. We will always be double thinking and looking for the next best deal or new thing that makes our current choices incorrect.
The key then is to choose the things that satisfy us. They may not be the best product, but if it does the job, be satisfied. Your partner may not be the best looking or most kind person in the world, but if life is easier and worthwhile with them, why worry about the what if’s?
We can be satisfied with the choices we have made and the things we will choose by changing our mindset. We do not need more choices, and we do not need to choose right every time. We need to learn to be grateful for the options we have and choose the one that brings about the most satisfaction.
I am a Visionary and Writer who seeks to enrich society by challenging how we do business today to lead to a world of better leaders and opportunities tomorrow.