We often think our freedom and joy is tied to having choice. We want more options. More friends. More opportunities. If you were to ask almost anyone I bet they would say that more is more. We think that more will make us happy.
The science though, tells a different. While having NO choice can lead to feelings of helplessness or lack (think communst regimes or controlling spouses/employers), having too much choice leads to dissatisfaction and stress.
Sheena Iyengar studies choice. In the Jam Study by Sheena Iyengar she discovered that when given 24 samples of jam to try vs 6 samples of jam – people were more likely to stop at the booth with the 24 samples but were more likely to buy if they only stopped at the stand with 6 samples.
When people have travelled the world they report more dissatisfaction when deciding where to live than people who have visited very few countries or stayed in their hometown.
People who have had multiple lovers and partners have a harder time staying happy in relationships than people who have stayed with their childhood sweetheart or stay in long term relationships.
We see how choice and too much opportunity affects us with social media especially. We may think that all of those happy perfect travel photos, recipes, puppies and the like are harmless photos but people report more feelings of dissatisfaction with their life and person when they spend more time on social media. Why? Comparison. A feeling of lack when we see what others have – instead of paying attention to what we already have.
I for one have been feeling much better as of late and I’m not alone. I’m not on a hectic schedule. I’m taking more joy in the mundane tasks of everyday life. I’ve developed new eyes for my home, my hobbies, my work, my pets, and my relationships. Life is simpler. There’s nowhere to go. My one outing a week to the grocery store or a my socialily distanced hike with a friend is very fulfilling.
We think we want the hustle and bustle. The endless travel, the many lovers, the busy social calendar, the 340 flavours of ice cream. But do we really? Does that…did that…ever make us truly happy?
One of my personality characteristics is I am a MORE person. Whenever I have something that I like – I want more of it. Good times, wine, food, work, anything. I have the tendency to strive, to obtain, to create non-stop. While I do like what I’m doing I’m never all that happy or satisfied – because I’m always looking for more. Always looking for the next thing. Now I have way less and I never knew that I would be so happy. I feel gratified. I feel sustained. I don’t feel the need for more.
I’m using what I have. Every last bit of product in my bathroom. I’m making things from scratch if I run out. I’m cleaning and organizing my space, my home, and my yard to get it just right. I didn’t realize my need to consume everything was insatiable and deeply unsatisfying. I have way less now. I’m buying less. I’m using less. I’m going nowhere and here I am deeply satisfied with what is.
More isn’t more. The solution isn’t always to try a new program, or a new diet, or to buy a new outfit. It’s to appreciate what you already have. To use what you have. To find gratitude for what is. If anything new is going to arrive in your life right now make it new eyes. New eyes to see the abundance of what life has already offered you. This is your life. You’re missing it. Be here now. The joy will follow.
With grace and grit,