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The Art of Choosing: Working Through Daily Decisions and Discerning our Path in Life Paperback – August 20, 1989
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About the Author
Carlos G. Valles, S.J., is a Spanish Jesuit priest who has worked in India for the last thirty-eight years and became a close friend and associate of the late Father Anthony de Mello, S.J. He has written dozens of books, for which he has received India's highest literary award as best prose writer. His book Living Together is distributed in America by the Institute of Jesuit Sources and Sketches of God by Loyola University Press. In addition, his work has been translated.
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Top customer reviews
Nonetheless, it is well written, and contains some hugely important insights in its cross-cultural insights. I was particularly interested in the comparison of collectivist and individualistic cultures as regard choices. What may be motivating to some people may be disconcerting and unwelcome to others - something that is important for multinational corporations as they seek to motivate their workers. Those of us who have grown up in the individualistic cultures of the West may be surprised to read that what we would perceive as a frustrating lack of choice in the more collectivist cultures is actually described as reassuring and more likely to ensure fairness.
If you are looking for an entertainingly written account of research on choice at an "academic, a few thousand feet up" level rather than a "down on the ground where we are making choices" work it is an excellent read and I am glad to have added it to my library.
Iyengar also delves into the cultural differences that distinguish Americans from the Eastern world. Like Jonathan Haidt in The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, Iyengar shows how Americans are culturally different, much different. Here, Iyengar writes about Americans value liberty and freedom of choice. A Japanese toddler will perform better on a puzzle, for example, if told that her mother picked the puzzle to solve. By contrast, an American toddler will ask incredulously, "Really? You asked my mom to pick?" Reviewing the preferences for domains for choice, Iyengar concludes, "Americans desired personal choice in four times as many domains of life as did the Japanese."
We should take heed of the simple truth that, as Iyengar recounts over and over, with more choice comes more regret. Followers of fundamentalist faiths are the happiest because, as Iyengar writes, "The presence of so many rules didn't debilitate people; instead, it seemed to empower them. Many of their choices were taken away, and yet they experienced a sense of control over their lives." Unitarians and atheists are the most susceptible to pessimism and depression, she finds. Collectivist cultures might value familial duty to the detriment of choice, so much so that children are asked to enter into arranged marriages. But it turns out, Iyengar shows, that arranged marriages usually have better outcomes than love-based ones.
Iyengar saves the best parts of the book for the end. There, she writes more like an old friend, giving the reader sage advice gained from time, on how to make better decisions on all things big and small. For big decisions, get some help. "We frequently look to sources of authority and expertise to alleviate the burden of a difficult decision--finding someone who tells us that we went the right way in a tough bind can go a long way toward making us feel better about it, even if the actual outcome remains unchanged," she writes. And you'll make better choices--and leave yourself with less regret--if you remind yourself of your most deeply committed principles. "The key is to recognize--to return to the words of de Tocqueville--that in order to "hold fast" to something, one must allow oneself to be held to something," Iyengar advises. "That commitment may be one of the hardest things to practice in a world of so much choice.""
And what about a grander goal, more important than choosing the best flat-screen? To lead a better life, Iyengar counsels us to define our narrative. Use a simple exercise: "Write three versions of the story of your life (or a particular period in your life), looking in turn through the lenses of destiny, chance, and choice. Which of these versions is most motivating for you? Which one encourages you to try harder, push further, reach higher? Which emphasizes that you have the power to go from where you are today to where you want to be tomorrow?"
A lot of what Iyengar writes is described elsewhere in this genre, both in the best-seller from Iyengar's former mentor, Thinking, Fast and Slow, and in a more Malcolm Gladwell-ish format in How We Decide. But I got the impression while reading Iyengar's book that she earnestly wants to help her readers make better choices and lead better lives. Her book is not just academic pursuit, but a gift of knowledge from someone that knows so much about her field that she can't help but share it with us.
Most recent customer reviews
It's fascinating to realize that humans thrive when we have choice - but...Read more
Choosing has many many paths before it even begins.Read more