The Upside of Having No Choice

I was watching Dan Gilbert’s TED talk on Happiness this morning while I exercised. There are a lot of interesting tidbits in the talk but the one that spoke the most to me this morning is about choice. And how having more options makes you unhappier.

It’s also interesting how adaptable humans are. How we always seem to want to regress to the mean which is why, I assume, happiness levels normalize after a major change on either direction. And I guess it’s another example of less choice leading to just adapting and readjusting happiness levels.

But the idea that if we’re given fewer choices and fewer options to change our mind, then we’re happier with the outcome we had is quite fascinating and one worth thinking about. It means that, for the harder things in my life, if I don’t look at them as options but as irreversible decisions, I am more likely to be happy with them. That sounds counter-intuitive but maybe that’s why it’s worth extra attention.

I know Dan talks mostly about how we inadvertently just think we made the better choice when we have no opportunity to change our mind, but I was thinking more about situations where we think we have a choice and how we might be able to use this knowledge of “fewer options, more happiness” idea to our advantage. I think that if I am struggling with my marriage and think of divorce as a non-option, I am more likely to try harder to make it work. Either by overlooking the small things, or actually dealing with the bigger issues, etc. (Barring severe cases of legitimate reasons for separation, of course.) Same for work or other commitments. If getting out of the situation is a non-option, it makes it clearer in my mind. Cause I am not questioning whether I made the right decision anymore. The decision is made, it can’t be changed, so the only way to move is forward.

So we move forward.

We go through.

And we come out on the other side. Adapt. Change. Make it work. Find a way to be happy with it.

Because when there’s no other way out, we know we have to do the work.

So I decided today that I want to use this as a way of thinking for myself. It sort of connected with Tara’s post from yesterday for me. Less pining. More making it work. I decided that I won’t worry about routes I didn’t take, options I don’t really have. I won’t second-guess my decisions, my possibilities. I will just think of my decisions and choices as final (at least for now) and move forward. And I will have faith that the lack of dubiousness will result in happiness.

It seems at least worth a try.

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