October 21, 2012 – Book Review: Sheena Iyengar’s “The Art of Choosing”

Sheena Iyengar has written this wonderful, insightful book called “The Art of Choosing.”  It was shortlisted for the FT Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award, and my favorite authors Malcolm Gladwell and Daniel Gilbert share the following opinions:

“No one asks better questions, or comes up with more intriguing answers” – Malcolm Gladwell

“Intimate, beautifully written and deeply compelling” – Daniel Gilbert, author of “Stumbling on Happiness”


TED Video: The Art of Choosing

Courtesy of TED: http://www.ted.com/talks/sheena_iyengar_on_the_art_of_choosing.html

Sheena Iyengar studies how we make choices — and how we feel about the choices we make. At TEDGlobal, she talks about both trivial choices (Coke v. Pepsi) and profound ones, and shares her groundbreaking research that has uncovered some surprising attitudes about our decisions.

Sheena Iyengar studies how people choose (and what makes us think we’re good at it).


Personal Favorite Passages:

1.) You never know, do you?  It’s a jack-in-the-box life: You open it carefully, one parcel at a time, but things keep springing up and out.

2.)  What is freedom?  Freedom is the right to choose: the right to create for oneself the alternatives of choice.  Without the possibility of choice a man is not a man but a member, an instrument, a thing. – Archibald Macleish, Pulitzer Prize-winning American Poet

3.) I have overcome almost certain death.  I now have a choice: to pilot myself to a new life or to give up and watch myself die.  I choose to kick as long as I can.  – Steven Callahan, survivor, “Adrift: Seventy-six days lost at Sea”

4.) Too much of a sweet thing can eventually lead to a root canal.

5.) The desperation of a life in captivity is perhaps conveyed best in Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem “The Panther”: As the animal “paces in cramped circles, over and over,” he seems to perform “a ritual dance around a center/ in which a mighty will stands paralyzed.” Unlike the dogs in the Seligman experiment, the panther displays his paralysis not by lying still, but by constantly moving.  Just like the helpless dogs, however, he cannot see past his confinement: “It seems to him there are a thousand bars, and behind the bars, no world.”  Whether the bars are real or metaphorical, when one has no control, it is as if nothing exists beyond the pain of this loss.”

6.) Joan Didion begins her essay “The White Album” with the following phrase: “We tell ourselves  stories in order to live.”  It is a simple but stunning claim.  A few sentences later, she writes, “We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five.  We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices.  We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the “ideas” with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.”  The imposed narrative, even if it is trite or sentimental, serves an important function by allowing us to make some sense of our lives.  When that narrative is about choice, when it is the idea that we have control, we can tell it to ourselves – quite literally – “in order to live.”

7.)  “It’s a mistake to imagine that slavery pervades a man’s whole being; the better part of him is exempt from it: the body indeed is subjected and in the power of a master, but the mind is independent, and indeed is so free and wild, that it cannot be restrained even by this prison of the body, wherein it is confined.” – Seneca the Younger

8.) By sharing stories, we keep choice alive in the imagination and in language.

9.) Individualism vs Collectivism

Ask yourself when making a choice , do you first and foremost consider what you want, what will make you happy, or do you consider what is best for you and the people aroudn you?  Are we told to focus primarily on the I or on the We?

10.) In the world, ther are two great decrees: one is fate and the other is duty. That a son should love his parents is fate – you cannot erase this from his heart.  That a subject should serve his ruler is duty – there is no place he can go and be without his ruler, no place he can escape to between heaven and earth.

11.) People become slightly more collectivist with age as they develop more numerous and stronger relationships with others, and just as important, they become more set in their views over time, meaning they will be less affected than the younger generations by broad cultural changes.


Still reading the book, but it’s a pleasant one 🙂


– Faceless Trader


About Abc

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One Response to October 21, 2012 – Book Review: Sheena Iyengar’s “The Art of Choosing”

  1. How about choosing the perfect business for you?



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