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 10 2012: I think we dont have free choice at this moment since we are controlled trough nature,and as we know : nature is the source of everything and its system is perfect although its disturbed by us human beings. Nature is the giving force and human beings are the recievers or the consumers.And because we want to recieve and consume more than is nescary,we disturb this planet by stealing from its sources only to use for luxury and own benefit.
    About your question who,s responcibility it is to change our perception I think its nature.If we stop thinking about ourself or own benefit and we connect with other people in an altuistic way then we already create a spark from the energy of nature and become a giving force as well instead of a recieving force.And our mutual connection and the energy of nature will change our perception...
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      May 11 2012: I agree with you that nature is the source of everything... we come from nature and we are nature - we are not separate.

      The nature of nature is freedom, to connect and create new connections, diversity, growth and expansion. When we are in touch with our true nature, we realize we are not meant to be consumers but appreciators, that we can choose to work with nature and be responsible for when we choose to deny our true nature.

      Connecting and Reconnecting with the energy/essence of nature will grow and change our perception. The nature of nature is change...
    • May 12 2012: Hi Gerard,
      What is your definition of nature? Human nature in the perspective of many is destructive because of our "animal instinct". Yet what animal destroys their home, family, environment out of anger, hate and jealousy? Human nature, also based on our "animal instinct" is loving, kind and caring.

      For every human that receives and consumes their is someone who give and creates. Some are chopping trees down others are reforesting.

      The way we connect with others will depend on our perception of ourself. Do you consider yourself altruistic? What does this mean? Does it mean giving while denying yourself? Many people's perspective of receiving is, it is wrong. Yet if we receive reluctantly we take the pleasure out of giving.

      It's all there, always, the good, the bad, the destroyer and the creator, and everything in between. What you choose to see and focus on is your perspective, it can encompass several views simultaneously. Find a balance that brings you joy.
      • E Pines

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        May 13 2012: Defining altruism is indeed a very important point -- I would just like to offer a comment on that.

        People tend to think its a matter of devoting one’s time and resources to charitable works towards individuals, or the reforming of society for the general good. But the problem here is that the motivation is essentially egoistic.

        The action is generally to allay the psychological pain of conscience, or the pleasure and pain of inborn empathy; to gain a feeling of greater self-worth or outright pride; to gain social recognition/status, or to gain reward and avoid punishment in a religious sense.

        There is also a minority of people who just want to give of themselves for no rhyme or reason. Unfortunately this isn’t altruism -- its mindless impulse, insanity.

        If we follow the natural model of altruism, and translate it to the conscious human framework, the matter clarifies. It is in integration with the whole that others are understood to be part, even the greater part, of oneself. The state would be to take happiness in the pleasure of another, or even more so, the whole -- and suffer in their pain. [This should not be mistaken with empathy, where one actually feels pleasure or pain in their own person.]

        The closest idea we generally have to this is in the family bond. It can also be understood as the ideal expressed in religion of loving one’s fellow as oneself, and the secular parallel of enlightened self-interest.
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          May 13 2012: Hi E Pines,
          I agree that the motivation or intent of giving is an important piece of the puzzle regarding options, perceptions and creating happiness/contentment.

          I also agree with your statement that "it is in integration with the whole that others are understood to be part, even the greater part, of oneself".

          So, if we percieve ourselves as part of the whole, then "how we connect with others will depend on our perception of ourself", as Jennie insightfully states.

          We generally cannot give to others something we do not have for and with ourselves, and I observe that sometimes, people are on a journey to learn about various parts of "self". I have witnessed people starting to do charitable works for reasons that you may not consider for the greater good....ego, or mindless inpulse, as you say.

          At least they are taking one of the first steps toward realizing the concept of the whole, are they not? I've seen many people start out with one intent, and in the process of learning, growing and evolving, they discover another intent. I believe that whatever causes people to contribute to the whole is beneficial. And I totally agree with what Jennie says...The way we connect with others will depend on our perception of ourself. Many people's perspective of receiving is, it is wrong. Yet if we receive reluctantly we take the pleasure out of giving".

          I feel it is important to learn and practice the wonderful cycle of giving/recieving, and that means including ourselves in the whole:>)

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