I've been listening to TED Talks today while I processed oranges. I can enjoy being mindful of the process of cutting, peeling and separating oranges for the first orange. After that, I need distraction.
The talks I listened to were all about choice, our belief that many choices are good for us, and the evidence that many choices may actually be bad for us.
Sheena Iyengar spoke about cultural perceptions of choice. In some Eastern Europe, after the fall of the communist block, were overwhelmed by too much choice. They saw seven flavors of soda as one choice, soda, not seven choices. She mentions that Americans train their entire lives to identify choices, to such a degree that we believe the distinctions are innate, not constructed.
Psychologist Barry Schwartz teaches that many choices make us paralyzed and unhappy. If we choose the wrong choice we have no one but ourselves to blame for choosing poorly. If we make the correct choice (for us) we still might have chosen something even better, and we are unhappy. Assuming we have enough choices to meet our minimum requirements, we are better off with fewer choices rather than more choices.
Minimalism is self-imposed limitation of choice. In many religions, people limit themselves in order to improve their spiritual condition. Consider the Buddhist monk who lives with very little, or the Christian who celebrates Lent by giving up something. Limiting choices limits the amount of distraction, and it allows people to focus on spiritual improvement.
I have found that my life generally has been running more smoothly, more easily, as I simplify my choices. I have limited myself to one shopping trip a week, and this reduces my stress and busy-ness. I've taken away the choice from myself to run out whenever I want something. I have to plan better, but I have more peace overall. I feel like I have made a case study of myself. By limiting my choice to do certain things I am happier.
Perhaps I listened to these particular talks because I have been limiting myself and that is the reason they appealed to me. But I have always found it interesting that I find reinforcing information about an action once I am on the right path. Minimalist-ing my life is the right choice for me.