Happiness from having less choices

September 26, 2007 10:51 PM

If the TV that you have now is the biggest and thinnest that it’s ever going to get, you’d be pretty chuffed about it. The technology wasn’t going to get any better than this, and you already have the best there is.

If Louis Vuitton had only one new design for their handbags every five years, trend followers and fashionable women everywhere would be happy for at least that long. Instead of having to chase after new designs every passing season, contentment is a 5-year cycle.

If the woman whom you are with now is the most beautiful and most perfect for you ever – your own Aphrodite, your personal Helen of Troy – any other women wouldn’t even get a second look from you. You don’t crave or lust for others, you are infinitely satisfied with what fate has bestowed on you.

Happiness means having less choices. Or put it another way, the old saying that “ignorance is bliss”.

These interesting ideas were inspired by Sam de Brito’s post today titled “Too many options?” In it, he quotes psychologist Dan Gilbert who said,

… “natural happiness”, which occurs when things in life go our way (we fall in love, win Lotto, we get what we want) varies little from “synthetic happiness”, which our mind generates when we have no choice but to accept the cards we’ve been dealt.

Which basically means that we may think that we are happier because we have so many options, but the truth is that there isn’t much difference if we had less choices because happiness is what we make of it.

There’s also the mention of “disposable relationships” which I wrote about previously – that phenomenon is precisely because we are taught by modern society that we only have the one life so we deserve the best, therefore we innately feel that we can always do better. We have the choice and means to change things if we don’t like it.

The theory is all well and good, and almost religious like in meaning but society still thinks that “synthetic happiness is of an inferior kind”, as Dan Gilbert explains,

“Why do we have that belief? It’s very simple. What kind of economic engine would keep churning if we believed that not getting what we wanted would make us just as happy as getting it? A shopping centre full of zen monks is not gonna be particularly profitable because they don’t want stuff enough.”

In another words, “it’s the economy, stupid.” Our world today cannot function if no one craves and lusts after the next best thing. It is this constant need for the new and better that also propels technology forward. If prehistoric cavemen thought everything was hunky-dory way back then, we’d probably still be like that today.

Though being easily satisfied has its advantages. Remember the pure joy and fun with the simplest things in life when you were a kid? You were happy because you had all the things that you could possibly imagine then – nothing more, nothing less. At least you were until you saw that ad on TV for that toy that you must have. 😉

Girl on a rope swing

morleys @ stock.xchng

5 thoughts on “Happiness from having less choices

  1. usuallyquiet

    I guess this is true about handbags and tv’s…i.e. material stuff, but how do you explain a sense of something missing? The sense of disquiet like far away static even in the happy moments? Somehow I think the pursuit of relationships, and “stuff” is really just a band aid for the deeper yearning. That’s why being in a relationship or having more stuff, like the latest Apple toy, only makes you happy for a time. Then the sense of discontent returns…I think psychologists and the like know this part of humanity and the businesses strive off of our inner disquiet. What do you think?

  2. herman

    discontentment drives humanity to progress, to work harder, to be more creative, to invent more stuffs because we want better things, more comfortable life, more efficient living. But human being are never satisfied, so they won’t be happy. strange how the world works.

  3. mooiness Post author

    usually quiet: agree – trying to compensate that feeling of emptiness with material goods and having a relationship with someone does not work. You have to really be at peace with yourself first, then everything else would be icing.

    herman: that’s right but that’s why we are on top of the food chain. 🙂


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *