Book: Reflections

Reflections - bringing attention to your daily life by Désirée Steinmann

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Reflections of the Week

Choice – a Blessing or a Curse?

2010-04-26 08:58 (comments: 5)

Freedom is something that we value very highly in our society. One way to live freedom is to have choice. We would probably all agree that having the choice to decide oneself is a positive thing. Today, however, I also want to broach and talk about ominous consequences.

Where in the past, we (today’s 40 – 50 year olds) had only one children’s show on TV, and that one only from 5 – 6 p.m., there are hundreds of children shows and channels that run 24 hours a day now. Where in the past, we had the choice to either call a customer or business partner on a land line, or to write a letter which was sent by normal mail, we today have the choice of using a landline, mobile, SMS, MMS, e-mail, fax, instant messenger, Facebook, LinkedIn, Xing …

We have a lot more choices but are we really happier? In times when we only had one TV show, my brother and I would look forward to seeing it, sat down together and laughed in front of the TV and generally had a good time. When I observe my children today, the two of them first fight over which show should be watched before they, independently from each other, sit alone in front of different TVs, and often randomly and without enthusiasm flip through the channels. When we only had land phone lines and normal mail, we had more time to think about an answer, we had more concentrated work time and even the division between work and free time was more succinctly defined. Today we react spontaneously and immediately to everything that flows to us, we are always reachable and are over loaded with the flood of information and contacts.

I remember vividly, when we lived in Canada and for the fist time, I went to a Tim Horton’s (something like Starbuck’s). My girl friends and I were waiting in line to order a coffee. I wanted a coffee with milk and sugar … and was not prepared for what was about to follow! Coffee from which country, what type of roasting, decaffeinated or not, high – low fat or skim milk, brown or white sugar or sweetener ?… you have perhaps seen the commercial which I actually experienced in 1999 in real life! Not feeling able to master the situation I simply ordered what my girlfriend before me had ordered … did I get what I wanted? To be honest, I am not sure – why? Because surely there was something that would have tasted better to me, had I known about all the possible combinations. Did I ever ascertain the perfect combination? No, because until this day I have not been able to try all the variations and could not even compare with those tries from a few years ago. The question I now ask myself is: how much choice means freedom and how much means frustration?

What are your thoughts to today’s theme? Write about it here in our Blog...



Barry Schwartz on the Paradox of Choice


The more alternatives, the more difficult the choice.

Abbe' D'Allanival


The absence of alternatives clears the mind marvelously.

Henry Kissinger


I can resist everything except temptation.

Oscar Wilde

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Add a comment

Comment by Andree | 2010-05-02

Dear Désirée,
I always enjoy reading your letters! I support your decision to publish them weekly or twice a month.
Best Regards,

Comment by Sue | 2010-05-02

Your story about Tim Horton's rang a bell! A couple years after having moved from home (USA) to Switzerland, we were back in the US visiting. My son ordered a grilled cheese sandwich. Choices! White, wheat, or rye bread, American, Swiss or Provolone cheese, chips or fries, etc. He was frustrated! "I just want a grilled cheese sandwich!"

I encounter similar overwhelming feelings when I go back to US supermarkets. It seems like I could spend a week in them before getting from one end to the other. Ah, but one gets used to it. Coming back to Migros then feels like going behind the iron curtain. :-)

Comment by Marjan | 2010-05-03

Thanks for this! I totally agree with Barry and with you!! I noticed this when we were living in Prague 15 years ago. Not much choice meant 'no worries'. You just got what was available and that was it. Being in New York for my birthday created completely the opposite feeling. So much choice, so NO action. I felt so overwhelmed and noticed that I kept thinking 'should I do this, or should I do that'. And in the end.....I did not decide on anything (i.e. I did not buy books, clothes, shoes etc.....!).

Comment by Marina Riedi | 2010-05-16

Dear Desireé, you asked me if you should send your newsletter weekly or beweekly. Here what I think: your newsletter for me is a gift. So it's up to you to decide how often you want or can make a gift to your audience. I can imagine that you have a lot of work preparing this beautiful, deep and full of content letters. If you energy management allows you to send them everyweek, I will be happy to get them that often, othewise I will be not less happy to receive them every other week.

Warm greetings

Comment by Sidney | 2012-02-20

_, That happens in a moment which may not happen in a hundred years. - Italian Proverb