Still Trying to Understand Happiness . . .

“I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.”

– Groucho Marx

I’m still trying to Understand Happiness through iTunes U.  In previous posts I discussed classes 1, 2 and 3 in the iTunes U course Understanding Happiness.  In the 4th class, psychologist and professor Barry Schwartz discusses The Paradox of Choice and it’s effect on happiness. His talk is interesting and entertaining and somewhat disconcerting.  His premise is that:

Adding options to people’s lives can’t help but increase the expectations that people have about how good those options can be –  and what that is going to produce is less satisfaction with results even when they are good results . . . the secret to happiness is Low Expectations!

This is an interesting thesis certainly creates debate, but is it true?  Professor Schwartz’ talk certainly has validity.  And when I think back to talks I’ve had with friends about shopping and dissatisfaction, I can’t help but think the man has a point. Schwartz explains why choice makes people miserable:

  1. Regret and anticipated regret
  2. Opportunity costs
  3. Escalation of expectation
  4. Self-blame

We are always wondering if we could do better.

A thought provoking and often funny video presentation:



Please let me know your thoughts Barry Schwartz’ TED talk at iTunes U, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on choice and its impact on your happiness.

And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.





3 thoughts on “Still Trying to Understand Happiness . . .

  1. Greetings, Patti. I’m only responding to your brief essay (I haven’t watched the TED talk). First thought: Thoreau: “Simplify, simplify.” (I sometimes wonder why he said it twice.) It’s my gradual understanding that the closer I become to myself, the less outer validation (especially materially) I need. Things just get simple, and I enjoy life. I paint, I write, I watch my habits. Along with this is an undercurrent of gratitude that is crucial. We have to remember how good we have it. There’s also some due diligence toward life as a school–but this comes naturally, too, in the simplifying. As one wise one said, “There’s no measure out there for William to live up to; there’s only William acting in accord with his nature.” Another aspect of the issue of happiness is: is happiness the best measure of our lives? But that’s another matter for another time.


    • Thank you so much for your comment William, I appreciate you taking the time to write and the thought provoking words. I love your words “the closer I become to myself, the less outer validation I need.” I so agree; I call that my constant striving toward Authentic Self. And yes, gratitude is crucial. Thank you also for sharing those wise words, I will remember them: “There is no measure out there for Patti to live up to; there is only Patti acting in accord with her nature.”


  2. Pingback: Bliss and . . .spaghetti sauce? | A Woman's Guide

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