The one-sentence summary
True choice requires the correct balance of freedom to choose an option, and freedom from choosing it by an external force.
WHAT THE BOOK SAYS
- Choice is the only tool we have for achieving fulfilment in life, allowing us to be masters of our worlds. Sometimes the choices don’t matter that much – like which fizzy drink to go for – but others are important, such as those about jobs and relationships.
- Each major choice has a significant bearing on our quest for contentment, and this book purports to help us make better-informed decisions.
- The main factors influencing choice are:
~ Your past – referred to here as your prologue
~ Temptation – the call of the wild
~ Unfamiliarity – being a stranger in a strange land
~ Selfishness – a ‘song of myself’
~ Values – your sense and sensibility
~ Independence – the degree to which you copy others
~ Materialism – a desire to be lord of the things
- If you want to improve your chances of making decent choices, try these four tips:
- True choice requires the correct balance of freedom to choose an option, and freedom from choosing it by an external force.
- Cut your options down to a manageable number – 7 is probably the maximum*
- Cultivate confidence in your choices – by getting sensible and reliable advice and information
- Categorise your choices – to weigh up the pros and cons effectively
- Condition yourself – by experimenting with easier choices before embarking on the more complex ones
WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT IT
- It is a mix of biology, business and psychology, distilled by a thoughtful author who is reflective and humane, and appears to have a strong moral compass.
- Learned optimism is where we adjust our vision to see that we have control, rather than passively receiving what life throws at us.
- Culturally, Easterners actively prefer to have less choice, although this may be changing. While this tendency can reduce selfishness, it can increase stagnation, particularly in companies.
- As Citizens of Choiceland, we are ‘obliged to be free’. For some, this carries a heavy burden. Long-term self-control is needed to make wise life decisions about health, spending and saving.
WHAT YOU HAVE TO WATCH
- This is a rolling narrative, not a textbook, so you can only find these nuggets if you read it systematically and make notes.
*This derives from George Miller’s 1956 paper “The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two”, in which he showed that beyond that figure we have real trouble processing information.