Thanks to Becca for inviting me to review this book by Barry Schwartz, and for being patient with how long it has taken me to finish and review it! Even though it did take me awhile to complete, I did enjoy this book.
I picked this book up at the library thinking it would be about simple and frugal living, two topics I am very interested in. It isn’t exactly that, but in my mind the ideas presented in the book are a very good fit with a simple and frugal lifestyle. The following is one of my favorite parts of the book:
No matter what you can afford, save great wine for special occasions. No matter what you can afford, make that perfectly cut, elegantly styled, silk blouse a special treat. This may seem like an exercise in self-denial, but I don’t think it is. On the contrary, it’s a way to make sure that you can continue to experience pleasure. What’s the point of great meals, great wines, and great blouses if they don’t make you feel great? (p. 187)
It is an interesting premise he is trying to prove, “How the Culture of Abundance Robs Us of Satisfaction.” The author begins by presenting several examples of how our choices have grown in everything from the mundane: crackers at the grocery store, to the important: retirement plans. Using recent research in psychology and economics, he shows how the increase in choices is overwhelming, raises our expectations, and ultimately leads to disappointment, unhappiness, and in the worst cases depression.
No, it isn’t all bad news. We do live in a culture of abundance. There are an infinite number of choices in almost every area of our lives, but we do not have to suffer the effects of it. The author offers eleven steps to reduce or eliminate the stress that is caused by our overabundance of choice. One of the biggest steps is to be content and settle for good enough, and not always try for the best. Sounds un-American doesn’t it? Maybe, but it is perhaps one of the most important things that we can learn.