**spoiler alert** I liked this book best of all three, I think. Relationships are always the most important thing to me, rather than action (though th...more**spoiler alert** I liked this book best of all three, I think. Relationships are always the most important thing to me, rather than action (though that was cool too), so to see Katniss very slowly begin to understand who she is, what type of a person she is (pretty selfish and despicable, actually), to accept what her needs are, and to finally choose the boy with the bread?! Oh man. Super exciting. And at the end, I *knew* when she voted to do another round of Hunger Games that she was bluffing so she could kill Coin. I knew it. But that's about the only plot twist I saw coming in the whole series. The series is the latest addition to my favorite futuristic dystopian novels, and I love that it not only challenges what the Capitol stands for, but also the idea that you should fully throw your weight behind any party at all. Top shelf philosophy, and with a top shelf romance. Incredible books.(less)
I loved this book, and have already found it extremely useful in my mindset and general well-being. Seriously, life-changing. At times it was incredib...moreI loved this book, and have already found it extremely useful in my mindset and general well-being. Seriously, life-changing. At times it was incredibly convicting, as I fit decisively (ha!) into the "maximizer" stereotype, freaking out over every little choice and drowning in daily minutiae. And other times, he drew out some very good points that I already ascribe to, and felt myself going "You tell 'em!" Anyway, I think the problem of having too many choices is something that's very glossed over today, and most people aren't aware of it. I would recommend this book to every single person I know.
The highlights according to me are below.
As a culture, we are enamored of freedom, self-determination, and variety, and we are reluctant to give up any of our options. But clinging tenaciously to all the choices available to us contributes to bad decisions, to anxiety, stress, and dissatisfaction -- even to clinical depression.
Comparison shopping to get the best price adds still another dimension to the array of choices, so that if you were a truly careful shopper, you could spend the ether part of a day just to select a box of crackers, as you worried about price, flavor, freshness, fat, sodium, and calories.
In the modern university, each individual student is free to pursue almost any interest, without having to be harnessed to what his intellectual ancestors thought was worth knowing. But this freedom may come at a price. Now students are required to make choices about education that may affect them for the rest of their lives. And they are forced to make these choices at a point in their intellectual development when they may lack the resources to make them intelligently.
Filtering out extraneous information is one of the basic functions of consciousness. If everything available to our senses demanded our attention at all times, we wouldn't be able to get through the day.
Much of human progress has involved reducing the time and energy, as well as the number of processes we have to engage in and think about, for each of us to obtain the necessities of life. … As cultures advanced, not every individual had to focus every bit of energy, every day, on filling his belly. Eons later, manufacturers and merchants made life simpler still. Individuals could simply purchase food and clothing and household items, often, until very recently, at the same general store. The variety of offerings was meager, but the time spent procuring them was minimal as well. In the past few decades, though, that long process of simplifying and bundling economic offerings has been reversed. Increasingly, the trend moves back toward time-consuming foraging behavior, as each of us is forced to sift for ourselves through more and more options in almost every aspect of life.
The burden of having every activity be a matter of deliberate and conscious choice would be too much for any of us to bear. The transformation of choice in modern life is that choice in many facets of life has gone from implicit and often psychologically unreal to explicit and psychologically very real. So we now face a demand to make choices that is unparalleled in human history.
How we assess risk offers another example of how our judgments can be distorted by availability. In one study, researchers asked respondents to estimate the number of deaths per year that occur as a result of various diseases, car accidents, natural disasters, electrocutions, and homicides -- forty different types of misfortune in all. The researchers then compared people's answers to actual death rates, with striking results. In general, dramatic, vivid causes of death (accident, homicide, tornado, flood, fire) were overestimated, whereas more mundane causes of death (diabetes, asthma, stroke, tuberculosis) were underestimated. … People mistook the pervasiveness of newspaper stories about homicides, accidents or fires -- vivid, salient, and easily available to memory -- as a sign of the frequency of the vents these stories profiled. This distortion causes us to miscalculate dramatically the various risks we face in life, and thus contributes to some very bad choices.
As telecommunications becomes ever more global, each of us, no matter where we are, may end up relying on the same secondhand information. National news sources such as CNN or USA Today tell everyone in the country, and now even the world, the same story, which makes it less likely that an individual's biased understanding of the evidence will be corrected by his friends and neighbors. Those friends and neighbors will have the same biased understanding, derived from the same source. When you hear the same story everywhere you look and listen, you assume it must be true. And the more people believe it's true, the more likely they are to repeat it, and thus the more likely you are to hear it. This is how inaccurate information can create a bandwagon effect, leading quickly to a broad, but mistaken, consensus.
How do you determine how much to spend on a suit? One way is to compare the price of one suit to another, which means using the other items as anchors, or standards. In a store that displays suits costing over $1,500, and $800 pinstripe may seem like a good buy. But in a store in which most of the suits cost less than $500, that same $800 suit might seem like an extravagance. … Anchoring is why department stores seem to have some of their merchandise on sale most of the time, to give the impression that customers are getting a bargain.
The alternative to maximizing is to be a satisficer. To satisfice is to settle for something that is good enough and not worry about the possibility that there might be something better. A satisficer has criteria and standards. She searches until she finds an item that meets those standards, and at that point, she stops.
What seems to be the most important factor in providing happiness is close social relations. People who are married, who have good friends, and who are close to their families are happier than those who are not. People who participate in religious communities are happier than those who do not. Being connected to others seems to be much more important to subjective well-being than being rich. But a word of caution is in order. We know with certainty that there is a relation between being able to connect socially and being happy. It is less clear, however, which is the cause and which is the effect. Miserable people are surely less likely than happy people to have close friends, devoted family, and enduring marriages. So it is at least possible that happiness comes first and close relations come second. What seems likely to me is that the causality works both ways: happy people attract others to them, and being with others makes people happy.
In the context of this discussion of choice and autonomy, it is also important to note that, in many ways, social ties actually decrease freedom, choice, and autonomy. Marriage, for example, is a commitment to a particular other person that curtails freedom of choice of sexual and even emotional partners. And serious friendship imposes a lasting hold on you. To be someone's friend is to undertake weighty responsibilities and obligations that at times may limit your own freedom. The same is true, obviously, of family. And to a large extent, the same is true of involvement with religious institutions. Most religious institutions call on their members to live their lives in a certain way and to take responsibility for the well-being of their fellow congregants. So, counterintuitive as it may appear, what seems to contribute most to happiness binds us rather than liberates us. How can this notion be reconciled with the popular belief that freedom of choice leads to fulfillment? …. As Lane put it very simply … "There are too many life choices…without concern for the resulting overload…and the lack of constraint by custom…that is, demands to discover or create an identity rather than to accept a given identity." …. In other words, our social fabric is no longer a birthright but has become a series of deliberate and demanding choices.
Most people find it extremely challenging to balance the conflicting impulses of freedom of choice on the one hand and loyalty and commitment on the other. Each person is expected to figure out this balance individually. Those who value freedom of choice and movement will tend to stay away from entangling relationships; those who value stability and loyalty will seek them. Many will cobble together some mixture of these two modes of social engagement. …. But if unrestricted freedom can impede the individual's pursuit of what he or she values most, then it may be that some restrictions make everyone better off.
As our material and social circumstances improve, our standards of comparison go up. As we have contact with items of high quality, we begin to suffer from "the curse of discernment." The lower quality items that use to be perfectly acceptable are no longer good enough. The hedonic zero point keeps rising, and expectations and aspirations rise with it. …. If your hedonic assessment derives from the relation between the objective quality of an experience and your expectations, then the rising quality of experience is met with rising expectations, and you're just running in place. …. As long as expectations keep pace with realizations, people may live better, but they won't feel better about how they live.
We all seem to be swimming in one giant pond nowadays, and anyone's life could be ours. The essentially universal and unrealistically high standard of comparison decreases the satisfaction of those of us who are in the middle or below, even as the actual circumstances of our lives improve.
The moods of happy people improved when they got positive feedback and worsened when they got negative feedback, but whether they heard or didn't hear the feedback given to their partner made no difference. Unhappy people, on the other hand, were very much affected by the feedback their partner received. If a participant got positive feedback, but her partner got better feedback, the participant's mood worsened. …. In a follow-up to this study, Lyubomirsky tried to determine which factors about happy and unhappy people make them respond so differently to the same situation. What she found was that when happy and unhappy people were induced to distract themselves by thinking about something else after they got some negative feedback about performance on a task, the difference between them in their reaction to the news went away: both groups responded like happy people. And if happy and unhappy people were induced, after getting negative feedback, to think about it, the difference between them again went away: this time, both groups responded like unhappy people. The inference here is that distraction versus rumination is the critical distinction. Happy people have the ability to distract themselves and move on, whereas unhappy people get stuck ruminating and make themselves more and more miserable. We can't say for sure in this research what is cause and what is effect. Do unhappy people ruminate more than happy ones about social comparison, or does ruminating more about social comparison make someone unhappy? My suspicion is that both are true -- that the tendency to ruminate traps unhappy people in a downward psychological spiral that is fed by social comparison. Certainly, it is safe to say that, based on available research, social comparison does nothing to improve one's satisfaction with the choices one makes.
The distortions incumbent in the desire for control, autonomy, and perfection are nowhere more apparent than in the American obsession with appearance. The evidence is rather compelling that most of us can do little over the long term about our body shape and body weight. The combination of genes and early experience plays a major role in determining what we look like as adults, and virtually all diets tend to produce only short-term changes. These facts about body weight are directly contradicted by what the culture tells us every day. Media and peer pressure tells us that obesity is a matter of choice, personal control, and personal responsibility, that we should aspire to look perfect, and that if we don't, we have only ourselves to blame. According to the culture, if we had enough discipline and self-control we could combine sensible eating habits and exercise regimes and all look like movie stars. That in a typical year American buy more than 50 million diet books and spend more than $50 billion on dieting suggests that most Americans accept the view that what they look like is up to them. The illusion that each person can have the body that he or she wants is especially painful for women, and especially in societies, like ours, in which the "ideal" body is extremely thin.
When making a decision, it's usually a good idea to think about the alternatives we will pass up when choosing our most-preferred option. Ignoring these "opportunity costs" can lead us to overestimate how good the best option is. On the other hand, the more we think about opportunity costs, the less satisfaction we'll derive from whatever we choose. So we should make an effort to limit how much we think about the attractive features of options we reject.
I think the power of nonreversible decisions comes through most clearly when we think about our most important choices. A friend once told me how his minister had shocked the congregation with a sermon on marriage in which he said flatly that, yes, the grass is always greener. What he meant was that, inevitably, you will encounter people who are younger, better looking, funnier, smarter, or seemingly more understanding and empathetic than your wife or husband. But finding a life partner is not a matter of comparison shopping and "trading up." The only way to find happiness and stability in the presence of seemingly attractive and tempting options is to say, "I'm simply not going there. I've made my decision about a life partner, so this person's empathy or that person's looks really have nothing to do with me. I'm not in the market -- end of story." Agonizing over whether your love is "the real thing" or your sexual relationship above or below par, and wondering whether you could have done better is a prescription for misery. Knowing that you've made a choice that you will not reverse allows you to pour your energy into improving the relationship that you have rather than constantly second-guessing it.
As the number of choices we face increases, freedom of choice eventually becomes a tyranny of choice. Routine decisions take so much time and attention that it becomes difficult to get through the day. In circumstances like this, we should learn to view limits on the possibilities we face as liberating not constraining. Society provides rules, standards, and norms for making choices, and individual experience creates habits. By deciding to follow a rule … we avoid having to make a deliberate decision again and again. This kind of rule-following frees up time and attention that can be devoted to thinking about choices and decisions to which rules don't apply.
Despite our romantic images of suffering geniuses who have enriched our civilization, creative by day and tormented by night, there is a growing body of evidence that people think more creatively and expansively when they're happy than when they're not. Giving medical residents a little bag of candy unexpectedly before they engage in a difficult differential diagnosis task improves both the speed and the accuracy of their diagnoses. Happy people are more energetic and physically healthier than those who are not. And happiness adds about nine years to life expectancy. So even if you don't think that happiness is such a big deal in itself, it seems to serve a useful instrumental function. Happy people are more likely than unhappy ones to change the world in positive ways.
Perhaps most important, if you limit the number of choices you make and the number of options you consider, you're going t have more time available for what's important than people who are plagued by one decision after another, always in search of the best. You could use that time wisely by getting to know more deeply your lovers, your children, your parents, your friends, your patients, your clients, your students. The real challenge in life is doing the right thing in social interactions. It is knowing how to balance honesty with kindness, courage with caution, encouragement with criticism, empathy with detachment, paternalism with respect for autonomy. We have to figure this balance out case by case, person by person. And the only way to do so is by getting to know the other people you are most closely linked to -- by taking the time to listen to them, to imagine life through their eyes, and to allow yourself to be changed -- even transformed -- by them. In a hurried world that forces you to make decision after decision, each involving almost unlimited options, it's hard to find the time. You may not always be conscious of this, but your effort to get the best car will interfere with your ability to be a good friend. Your effort to get the best job will intrude on your duty to be the best parent. And so, if the time you save by following some of my suggestions is redirected to the improvement of your relationships with other people in your life, you will not only make your life happier, you will improve theirs. It's what economists call "Pareto efficient," a change that benefits everybody.(less)
This book blew my mind, it was like Brave New World for kids. I can't believe I had never read it before. A lot of what it says about control, regulat...moreThis book blew my mind, it was like Brave New World for kids. I can't believe I had never read it before. A lot of what it says about control, regulation, and Sameness is very close to my heart.(less)
This became one of my all-time favorites when I read it and wrote a report on it in 6th grade, and that was before I had ever really loved, lost, or s...moreThis became one of my all-time favorites when I read it and wrote a report on it in 6th grade, and that was before I had ever really loved, lost, or suffered. The enjoyment of this book is much deeper the second time around. The whole concept of the plot just captures so much about the human condition and I can't even describe how perfect it is. Dumas was a magician.
That being said, in the past several years I've gotten really into the movie version starring Jim Caviezel, and though it differs hugely from the book, I think it gets the same main concepts across and is also beautifully made. It's also one of my all-time favorite movies, even if some of the more intriguing characters (like Madame Danglars, Eugenie, and Bertuccio) are absent from it. The movie accomplishes basically everything the book does without being so long-winded.
In the book however, you get to see a bit more of Dantes' inner turmoil and his personal conflict, especially toward the end. Whatever way you choose to consume it, you must get into this story somehow. Life just makes more sense to me with this book.
"Moral wounds have this peculiarity, -- they may be hidden, but they never close; always painful, always ready to bleed when touched, they remain fresh and open in the heart."
"No, it is not existence, then, that I regret, but the ruin of projects so slowly carried out, so laboriously framed. … Oh, shall I then, again become a fatalist, whom fourteen years of despair and ten of hope had rendered a believer in providence? And all this -- all this, because my heart, which I thought dead, was only sleeping; because it has awakened and has begun to beat again, because I have yielded to the pain of the emotion excited in my breast by a woman's voice."
"All human wisdom is contained in these two words -- Wait and Hope."(less)