Have you ever been a to a Cheesecake Factory? They have these Encyclopedia Britannica sized menus with every possible food option you could think of, indiscriminate of food genre. You can have Pan-Asian, Mexican, American, Italian, etc., or you can have some dishes that combine the food styles in (occasionally) interesting ways. The menu serves that guy who sits on his couch and thinks up super random and specific meals he wants – it houses all his food cravings under one roof. I get the theory behind it and it is, admittedly, a good marketing and sales strategy. But, have you ever noticed what actually happens to someone at the Cheesecake Factory when they go there. Well, maybe I shouldn’t speak for everyone. But, whenever I go there, it takes me forever to decide what I want to eat. There are simply too many options.
And it’s not just the Cheesecake Factory. Life in the twenty-first century has, in general, taken on this approach. Especially if you live in a city, it seems like within five minutes of you is every type of everything that you could think of – a hundred dry cleaners, a million coffee shops, this show and that event. It’s not quite like back in the day, when the set up was more akin to “you went to either Mo’s or Sal’s Deli.” All the increasing options, intended to make life more convenient for us and let us pick what we specifically want at our heart’s desire are actually making decision making more difficult. Where they should clear our paths, they cloud our brains. It’s called the tyranny of choice – the saying basically confirming that too many choices are like a tyrannical ruler over our will, immobilizing us and confusing us. And, it’s true. The more options I have for takeout, the more I sit there unsure of what I’m actually craving. The more clothing in my closet, the more I stand in front of it clueless as to what to wear.
It is only logical to think that if some choice is good, more is better. But I stand here now for the proposition that more isn’t always better. Assessments of wellbeing by various social scientists–among them, David G. Myers of Hope College and Robert E. Lane of Yale University–reveal that increased choice and increased affluence have, in fact, been accompanied by decreased well-being in the U.S. and most other affluent societies. Where more isn’t the master key to happiness, I would venture an argument that taking satisfaction in what you have – without constantly seeking that ungraspable “more” – is where happiness lives. Now, I’m not saying don’t stop trying or pushing or striving. Do it, if you feel a certain lacking in your life. But if you don’t feel that lacking, then you’re probably good and you don’t need to “keep up with the Jones’” on every front. And mostly what I’m saying is…the Cheesecake Factory menu is ridiculous!