March 11, 2010
Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects - The Art of Choosing
The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar, Twelve, 329 pages, $25.99, Hardcover, March 2010, ISBN 9780446504102
We make choices every day: small choices about what we will eat for breakfast, what clothes we’ll wear, how we react within our jobs; and big choices about relationships, purchases—real life-changing choices. But what is choice? What drives us to make one and, when we find ourselves faced with a choice, what determines how we respond? Dr. Sheena Iyengar, a professor at Columbia Business School with a doctorate in social psychology, deconstructs the science and the emotion behind the choices we make in her new book, The Art of Choosing.
Iyengar begins by telling a selection of stories about survival, revealing the decisions people have made in dire situations. When the choice is between life and death, it seems the choice would be obvious, yes? But captivity, isolation, and control are issues that affect choices and decisions in profound ways. Iyengar sums up her examination of these survival situations with this positive truth:
For animals, the confinement of the body is the confinement of the whole being, but a person can choose freedom even when he has no physical autonomy. In order to do so, he must know what choice is, and he must believe that he deserves it.
This observation forms the crux of The Art of Choosing; that the mind is free to do as it wishes, regardless of external and physical limitations. Iyengar then proceeds to examine how this mental freedom plays a role in circumstances such as arranged marriages, communism, motivation, tolerance, consumerism and self-help. Through this exploration, we learn that choice has a lot to do with how we view ourselves, the situations we put ourselves in, and how we compare those choices to the ones we perceive others have made.
The Art of Choosing is a compelling book that helps us better understand, but not overanalyze, the decisions we make—and why we make them. Unafraid of discussing some of our most sensitive opportunities for choice, such as pregnancy and death, and how sometimes imbalances of power limit a person’s choices, Iyengar is also unafraid of allowing her own experiences and her personality to populate the page in a winsome combination of unbiased research and friendly reflection. Fans of Gladwell, Gawande and the Heath brothers have found their next must-read book.