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Donna Gets it Right ----

1-09 -04

Choices, Choices

I was reading an article in the Parade supplement of the Sunday newspaper; it's titled "When It's All Too Much". It was about how we have too many choices in today's society and how too many choices are making us unhappy. The more we have, the more we want. What caught my attention was the picture that went along with the article, a woman sitting with about 20 different pairs of red shoes in front of her to choose from. (it made me think of a cross between Denise and Karen!) So I read on.

These researchers conclude that we think more choices make us happier, when in fact, the opposite is true. Increased choice and wealth are leading to decreased well-being. The general happiness of Americans has been consistently going downhill. Over the past 30 years – a time of great prosperity – the people who normally describe themselves as “very happy” has declined by about 5 percent. If 5 percent doesn’t sound like a lot, well, that equates to about 14 million people. And that’s a lot of unhappy people. There are more depressed people than ever, more suicides, etc.

I had some sick people in my house just before Christmas. Ted had the Hong Kong Fluooey (that’s what I’m calling it) and 2 of my 3 kids had similar, smaller versions of it. They did have the fever and body aches in common. So I went a-shopping for OTC drugs at CVS. I had in my mind that I wanted Tylenol, for day and night, adults and kids. When I got there, I was quite overwhelmed to find dozens upon dozens of cold medicines. Tylenol, as well as all other name brands, has about 15 different kinds of cold medicines. Mingled in between each of these are the generic store brands.

I felt like Robin Williams in the movie "Moscow on the Hudson". He played a Russian man who had just defected to the US in a time when you had to stand in line for EVERYTHING in Russia. He went to the grocery store to buy coffee and when he saw all the tons of brands, he slowly went down the isle, eyes roving up an down, mumbling "Folger's, Nescafe, Taster's Choice, Chock Full of Nuts, coffee, coffee, coffee…..then ran out of the store screaming COFFEE!, without buying any.

I didn’t leave CVS empty handed, but I sure left with my eyes crossed.

Back to the article.

There was a test inside the article, to see if you are a Maximizer. A Maximizer is someone who will accept only the best possible result. And while this may sound like a good way to be, Maximizers tend to be unhappy and dissatisfied with their lives. And when they have to settle for less, they hate it and agonize over it. I really don’t feel that I’m that kind of person, but when I took the test my score was 45. If you scored between 35 and 50 you are said to have those tendencies. There is a chance to get a score of over 50, but those people were pretty much asked to seek professional help (It didn’t say that in the article, but it was the gist that I got.).

Here is a sample of the questions they asked. You’re asked to choose between 1 and 7 for your answer, 1 being totally disagree and 7 being totally agree.

1. I often fantasize about living in ways that are quite different from my actual life. My answer: 6

2. No matter how satisfied I am with my job, it’s only right for me to be on the lookout for better opportunities. My answer: 6

3. When I am in the car listening to the radio, I often check other stations to see if something better is playing, even if I am relatively satisfied w/ what I’m listening to. My answer: 6

4. When I watch TV, I channel-surf, even while attempting to watch one program. My answer: 7 (except when "Sex in the City" is on)

5. Renting videos is really difficult; I’m always struggling to pick out the best one. My answer: 7 (I make Ted do it, waaaaaay too many choices)

That’s only half the questions and I’m already over the score of being a Maximizer! So am I really that unhappy with my life like the research says?

The good news is that there are steps you can take so choices don’t overwhelm you, that are kind of simple, but doable:

  • Decide where in your life choice is really important, and then limit yourself in your options.
  • Settle for a choice that is “good enough” instead of agonizing over that elusive “best.”
  • Teach yourself to be content with the choices you’ve made. How you rate a choice is directly influenced by how it compares with your expectations.
  • (This is the ONE point that I think is depressing and a bit cynical) “Don’t expect too much, and you won’t be disappointed”, they say it is cliché but good advice to follow if you want to be more satisfied with your life. Not happy, satisfied. Well, I equate satisfied with happy. Maybe that’s wrong of me to do, but I also think that if you expect nothing you’re probably going to get exactly that, nothing.

I’m not sure I learned anything from this article, but it was interesting.

I don't usually make New Year's resolutions, but I did this year and it has 3 parts: Don’t sweat the little stuff, smile more, and be happy. It’s amazing how all three of those things will rub off on others.

Until next time…..


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Get it ALL Right!

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