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The Way How Choice Can Cause Stress

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Barry Schwartz once said “Unfortunately the proliferation of choice in our lives robs us of the opportunity to decide for ourselves just how important any given decision is” (Schwartz, 2014). Choice is an act of choosing between two or more possibilities. Stress is a body’s reaction which leads to physical, mental and even emotional change. It happens due to the change from our own environment, body and thoughts. In the book “tyranny or paradox of choice” Barry Schwartz mentioned that the excess amount of choice can make people miss out any opportunities to decide which decision is the most significant to themselves. He also brings the idea that having too much choice can be a bad thing. Choice can be indicated as an essential part of fundamental in daily lives. However, too much choice can contribute to some unexpected consequences or mental problems like making bad decisions, stress, and even depression. Therefore, I strongly agree that choice is undoubtedly a burden between this complex interaction, which affect human’s mental health, and which our ancestors did not have.

Economy and Technology are indicated as the two main causes which lead to too much choice in modern life. When talking about economy, globalization must be a key which links to economy. From ancient times to modern days, our society has shifted from agriculture and crafts to the development of technology and trade. According to Our World in Data, the value of exported goods started increasing from 1827 until 2014. It could be concluded that GDP rose from 1827, which made the living standards higher. Globalization has been a boom to businesses, consumers and the different cultures. As globalization arises, people are increasing their expectations on their quality of their life, like clothing, food, necessities, etc. However, people cannot accept anything less than what they have originally. Actually, this makes people feel worse when market increases the variety of products, which in turn makes them feel disappointed with the substitutes they choose.

At the same time, technology is also a main cause which induces stress. Technology is all about the ability to use our knowledge, tools, and skills to solve practical problems and make life easier and more convenient. Over the past decades, the development of science and technology has greatly influenced the way people work, communicate, and even the way people learn. However, this can be a bad impact. In the San Diego State University, Jean Twenge and her colleagues studied the national statistics on social media use. Teenagers who spent a majority of time on phones and social media ended up with serious mental health issues, whereas those who spent more time on non-digital devices were reported fewer. Moreover, in National Statistics, nearly eight out of ten adults access the internet “on the go”. Mobile phone or smartphone users were even increasing every year. Scientists found out that in corresponding information, the numbers are rising due to the requirements of social media and digital technology placed on teens and adults. 

Psychiatrist Zbigniew Lipowski mentioned, “I maintain that it is specifically the overabundance of attractive alternatives, aided and abetted by an affluent and increasingly complex society, that leads to conflict, frustration, unrelieved appetitive tension, more approach tendencies and more conflict — a veritable vicious cycle.” (5) Thus, if people are given too much choice, they will be stressed out, no matter the choices are important as life events or tiny as daily routines.

However that is not the case. As we can see that maximizers always spend a lot of time and energy to make a final decision. They want to increase their options to avoid the chance of making the wrong decision. Maximizers are always distressed whether they have made the best decision when compared with others. Moreover, they always want to seek for better ones. However, they usually get unhappy results at last. According to a study in Psychological Science found that although maximizing university students whose jobs were paid an average of $7,400 more than that of their classmates, the maximizers ended up less happy with the jobs they got. For satisficers are individuals who are always pleased with what they have now. It is not necessary to be the best option. However, they would not regret even if a better option exists after the decision has been made. Moreover, they would not compare their choice with others. Thus, it can be concluded that stress is due to the environment but not related to brain.

There are some solutions which can help solving the struggle with choice. In The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz suggests that people can set a limited time to do a task or to choose something. Then, they will be forced to find the best deal within this period. Also, people can always stick to the brands or shops that they always consume to avoid struggling with several famous brands. Lastly, people should always remember not to take everything for granted. They always need to have a thankful heart to everything they have right now. Every choice people make, there will be alternatives. Each of them has opportunity costs associated with it. Sometimes, choosing the goods from different famous brand make people suffer and feel stressed. When they have to forgo something, it is so hard for them to make decisions. Surplus choice is the main source of the anxiety to human. In conclusion, I agree that the amount of choice people have in modern world lead to a huge cause of stress, which our ancestors did not have.  

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