TED Conversations

Aneesah Bakker

Owner/Director/Developer, Creative Change Coaching

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When we think we have no options, can we change our perception? Does having options make us happier?

Like with "everything", so too there "is" a paradox of choice.

1. Are we happier when we think we have a choice?
2. What if circumstances are such that there "are" no choices, e.g. during the holocaust. Lessons learned indicate that perceiving a choice in such circumstances can create "happiness".
3. Can too much choice, create unhappiness?
4. Are there different types of choices?
5. Whose responsibility is it to change our perception?
6. In any given situation, would you try to change the circumstances before you try to change your perspective?
7. Can the economics of happiness be separated from the economics of things/consumerism?

A related ted talk on the Ted radio hour is the talk by Barry Schwartz: Does Having Options Make Us Happier:


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  • May 9 2012: The whole basis of one of the most effective approaches to psychotherapy--cognitive therapy--is changing perceptions of ourselves, the world and the future. It should be noted we always have a choice--what is limited is the variety and quality of options we perceive. Sometimes we misperceive what our options are and that leads us to question whether we have a "choice." Other times we actually have limited options, which can also lead us to question whether or not we have a "choice". Choice is something we always have, it's just not always easy to see. Even during the holocaust, people had choice. What was diminished was the range of options available to people depending on their religion, ethnic identity, sexual preference, etc. But "choice" was always there.

    As for creating "happiness"--I'm not sure what that word means. It is so vague, unanchored in any reality other than my (your) own perceptions of yourself, the world and the future that to speak of "creating" happiness is simply to say, in a less precise way--changing our perceptions. If "happiness" were based in something other than perception how could it be that people who are infinitely wealthy in many ways are "unhappy"? And, how could it be that people who are impoverished and lacking many basics can be "happy"?

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