How One Choice Will Change Your Life

by kyle maynard on September 18, 2012

What if I told you that you could make one tiny change in your life, and it would make your life better?  What if I told you that it doesn’t even really matter what change you make? It could be big. It could be small. As long as its a change for the better, it doesn’t really matter what change it is.

What if I told you that you don’t even need to actually make the change for you to have a better and happier life, that all you needed to do was decide what one thing you wanted to change? Let me say this again; To lead a happier life you dont have to actually change anything, you just have to decide what you would like to change.

For all of the people out there who have already decided to join me on my 3-month challenge, you have already made your life better and happier without lifting a finger. Don’t believe me?

Just read on. I have some science to back this up.

For all of our knowledge and experiences, one question continues to elude the human race:

What is the secret to happiness?

Unfortunately, we still can’t answer this question definitively, but scientists have started to answer an important variation to this question:

What makes us happier?

As it turns out, there is now some very surprising evidence that flies in the face of conventional wisdom, and some of it comes down to choice.

The traditional thought is that choice and freedom has a one-to-one relationship with happiness. If we have more freedom and more choices, we will be happier. We think this all of the time. When you go to a clothing store do you want to be able to choose between a variety of different pairs of jeans, or only one? Stores advertise this all of the time. We hear phrases like “The largest selection of ______ in the country!”

But do all of these choices make us happier? The answer is actually a bit more complicated.

According to the independent work of Barry Schwartz and Dan Gilbert, it is true that a little bit of choice is a good thing. People generally won’t be happy if a department store only carries one type of jeans. Not everyone is going to like the same pair of denim. However, new research is finding that there is a limit. A few choices can make us happier, but too many choices can make us really unhappy.  How can this be?

Well as it turns out, as our number of choices increase, so do our expectations. We no longer expect to find a really great pair of jeans – we expect to find the perfect pair. As a consequence, every little thing that isn’t perfect with the jeans becomes magnified in our  mind. We begin to obsess, and examine things too closely. We become overwhelmed, exhausted, and (you guessed it) unhappy.

To make matters worse, even after we have made a decision and bought the jeans we like the most, return policies continue the torture. We can prolong the decision-making process. We can bring them home, and decide we don’t like them as much as we thought. Maybe we like another pair more. A hundred years ago, the concept of “buyer’s remorse” didn’t even exist. When we really think about it, the concept is completely absurd. We needed a pair of jeans. We bought a great pair of jeans that look good and fit great and for an affordable price, but now we are unhappy because maybe there is an even better pair out there somewhere.

I think the example of jeans works great because every man and woman can relate to this one. We have all felt a little overwhelmed walking into a department store these days (and maybe even worse when we walk out of one). The truth is, that this same paradox of choice happens with bigger things in our lives (and not just with our purchases).

There was a reason why I asked everyone to choose one habit to change. I know for me, there are a million things in my life that I would like to improve. I want to improve my business, my relationships, my knowledge, but I didn’t let myself think of all of those choices. I chose just to improve my health. For those of you who have joined me in my challenge, you have chosen just one thing as well.

Out of all the things we could have chosen to improve, we didn’t overwhelm ourselves. We chose just one habit. And unlike Macy’s 30-day return policy, we can’t return this one for a different one. We can’t decide that this habit is too hard to break, so we are going to choose a different one. There can be no “buyer’s remorse” here.

We have made the decision. We now have a singular focus. We don’t have to wake up each morning and decide what we are going to improve. We don’t have the “luxury” of second-guessing our decision. Our minds are also not overwhelmed with all of the different poor habits we’re trying to break or good habits we’re trying to start. By making a decision and not looking back, we have eliminated the ever-increasing number of choices and decisions. Less is more.

I don’t know about you, but this has made me a lot happier already.

I think you will also find, that just like a great pair of jeans can make any outfit look better, this one change, this one habit, will improve all aspects of your life.  In fact, I know it will. There is science behind that too, and in the next few weeks I look forward to sharing it.

I’m so excited to continue this journey with you all. We will all become better, happier people together.

Actually, we already have.

Until next time,

Kyle

 

{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

Troy E September 19, 2012 at 4:08 pm

One word: Simplify. People often recall how they (and others) *used* to be happier “back when things were simpler”. And yet, paradoxically, we are enamored with so many technological innovations that we assume bring us joy.

I once read about a study concerning two different jam/jelly kiosks – one containing a lot of choices, and another containing only a couple. One might expect the stand with more options would do better, since it should appeal to more customers’ interests, but the results were just the opposite. The stand with only a couple of options did far better in sales. People at the high variety stand would spend a few minutes looking over the various options, but instead of finding what they want and purchasing it, many just walked away in frustration – fear that they may not make the correct choice. “What if I take this one home and I find it’s not as good as I thought? I knew I should have bought a different kind. There were so many to choose from!” These conversations play out in the consumer’s head in real time and overwhelm them to the point where they give up.

The same psychology can be applied to any area of our life. As you mentioned, some choice is good, but there is a limit. Having too many options is frustrating and usually only serves to stress us out.

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Kyle Maynard September 20, 2012 at 11:02 am

That is cool Troy. There is some really fascinating science behind the business implications of too many choices. Henry Ford once said “you can have any color car you want, as long as it’s black.”

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Kevin Webb September 19, 2012 at 4:39 pm

This is why Costco does so well. They have fewer choices on most items, yet you spend much more there than you do in a grocery store.

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Kyle Maynard September 20, 2012 at 11:03 am

I have been afflicted by this phenomenon as well ;-)

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Dennis September 19, 2012 at 4:51 pm

Ecclesiastes 7:3 Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.

Happiness is just one season in a life full of seasons. When we chase it, it becomes elusive.

The tyranny of the consumer is evident. Having a dollar in our pocket makes us think we are king or queen. The motto of “the customer is always right” is directly opposed to the idea of God always being right. Great insight there, Kyle.

Happiness in its purest form comes from a soul with a million good reasons to cry. They lean on God for their everlasting joy and comfort in the face of pain and loss.

Thanks for what you do Kyle. You make heaven smile. You show us why any obstacle is not a wall but just a large speed bump.

God bless.

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Kyle Maynard September 20, 2012 at 11:08 am

I don’t think I’ve ever seen that verse before Dennis… but that got me in some deep thought just now. Probably too deep after waking up at 4:45am but thank you for sharing.

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Richard J Manna September 30, 2012 at 4:39 am

Sorrow is only better if it helps us see how
we can be better in the eyes of God.By God
I mean the god of Abraham.

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Jennifer Bingham September 19, 2012 at 10:31 pm

Thanks Kyle for a great reminder about choosing happiness! I for one get bogged down recently with trying to decide where to move within my state. (That narrowed the choices to a bazillion in NJ. The great news is that my day job as a graphic production artist thfor a publishing company I consult for is having all of its minion work from home now. Yippy Great freedom of PJs and laundry while working! It also gave me a new idea like why don’t I move to the beach. Well then my choices spread far and wide and felt overwhelmed and not a peace like my fantasy of walking the beach on a nice warm sunny day would give me. So I did the next thing that I knew would give me a clear directive. I asked God/Universe that if I was meant to stay in the same area where I live now there were a few items on my must have list one being in the same proximity to my fave grocery store Shoprite, my Starbucks, and proximity to my fav historic university town and finally an apt that included heat and hot water that was in my budget. Did you know that day I found the place on craigslist looked at it and then got approved all within a two days. I got all that and a W/D in my apartment so my dream of laundry while working comes to fruition after all. My point being that when I had the whole world as my oyster I got overwhelmed and couldn’t make a decision and that made me stressed and unhappy. So I gave it up to God and I couldn’t be happier.

Much love and hugs you are a real inspiration!
Jen

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Kyle Maynard September 20, 2012 at 11:10 am

That’s a really cool story Jen! And glad you found the home you love!

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Aisake Vuikadavu September 20, 2012 at 9:42 pm

So true!! And it applies so plainly too in the world of online business marketing trainings. So many great programs, software, methods etc and just the same 24 hours in a day. I feel it all boils down to just choosing one thing and going for it, and then having the courage and gumption to stop looking around, regardless of how shiny the other objects may be.
What a vital point to consider. Perhaps (and hopefully) a “general awareness” of this will ensure that people will have more conscious control over their own situations…and not to mention the time saved that would initially be wasted on deciding between the trivial minute differences…that wouldn’t even matter “once you leave the store.”

Thanks for visiting us in Salt Lake this weekend too. You inspired many.

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Diane Maier September 22, 2012 at 10:47 am

I just finished CreateAthon with repepper. The agency spent 28 hours straight(no sleep!) working for nonprofits for free. While time limited our choices the work and commradery were beyond amazing. I love this post Kyle. It’s a great coaching lesson that its up to us to set limits on our own choices and not wait for others to frame our world.

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Traci September 27, 2012 at 9:42 am

The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz is such a great book (and I love that statement by Henry Ford)! We tell the students (Occupational Therapy Assistant students at a technical college in the Atlanta metro area) all the time that nothing is perfect – and doesn’t have to be in order for someone to be happy! It simply means that an individual should be involved in choices, such as improving his/her own health, and be provided with the education needed to make a good decision, rather than a perfect decision.

I’ve shown our OTA students a video before of you training to climb Mt. Kilamanjaro, but it would be great if they had the opportunity to hear you speak in person, since we are in GA. I saw the info about speaking engagements (unfortunately we have zero budget for that as a public technical college), so was wondering if you maintain a list of any local events you may be speaking at in the future?

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Mabrey October 26, 2012 at 11:14 am

I admire your act to do things even when some people say is is not possible. I also admire how you don’t quit on anything that you want/need to do. You inspire me, and make me want to try to work harder.

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Croteau October 26, 2012 at 11:16 am

This is really inspiring and it helped me understand that I DO need to make some changes in my life. Thank you. Have a great day!

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Hooten October 26, 2012 at 11:19 am

You inspire me to work hard everyday(:

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railey October 26, 2012 at 11:21 am

i have been playing softball for like 5 years. i practiced every day and night with my dad and my sister.then i played the games the next day. well one day we were pracitcing for the game,before the game and then i threw out my arm and quit softball.when i saw your blogs and stuff at school i told my dad to get back on that field because im playin ball.my dad was the happiest person alive because he has been playing ball since 5 years old and still to this day and my dream is to be a ball player and my dad knew that was my dream and he wanted me to achieve it and now im playng. thank you!!!!!!!!!! its all because of yo really thank you alot i couldnt of achieved my dream without you!!!!!!! i made a choice!!!!!!!!!

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Johnson October 26, 2012 at 11:24 am

Hey Kyle. You are a very inspiring person to all ages. You teach people if you put your mind to something, anything is possible. Thank you for never giving up. God bless you.

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adame October 26, 2012 at 12:11 pm

you have inspired me to keep trying to work hard and never give up on thing i can not do on the first try but i will keep trying stuff people say i can not do

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nicole October 26, 2012 at 12:14 pm

i think ur agreat inspiration to people all around.

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brennon October 26, 2012 at 2:24 pm

i agree with the statemenet . You are a great person and i wish you the best.

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jorgensen October 26, 2012 at 2:26 pm

Great story. I wish you the best

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Batson October 26, 2012 at 3:14 pm

I think that your story is are truly amazing! We are watching your video at school and I amazed at all that you can do. When I get older and can drive I want to go to one of your motivational speeches. It is also amazing that you climbed Kilimanjaro and try your best at every single thing.

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Leah October 26, 2012 at 3:17 pm

I read and listened to your story and you have inspired me to not listen to what others think and say about me.

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nakia :) October 26, 2012 at 3:25 pm

dear.kyle
this is nakia wow..the first time i herd you climbed mount kiliminjaro i felt verry happy for you.and just know i finished watching the youtube video….. and i just want you to know that if you keep trying you can succed..

from. your new friend Nakia
:)

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Guertler October 29, 2012 at 10:07 am

Dear kyle, your a great inpiration to me. How did you climed that much?i cant wait to see what yo do next.

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hemsher October 29, 2012 at 10:08 am

Thank you kyle for showing things are possible when you don’t think they are youa great model for everyone.

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Carpenter October 29, 2012 at 10:16 am

Dear Kyle,
I agree with you that one choice can change your life thats why I choose to brake one of my bad habits. I could know what happend to someone but I don’t say any thing because I’am afraid to speak out in front of people but this blog has changed that and I am determend to break that habit.

from your friend,
Carpenter.

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House October 29, 2012 at 10:17 am

Kyle, you inspire thousands of people everyday! I really have started thinking about some of the stuff you talk about while you are speaking or writitng your blogs. We may not know the key to happiness but everyone can find a way to be happy. Whether you realize this or not you have inspired and changes many peoples lives. Keep up the good work! Your amazing (:

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MOONEYHAN October 29, 2012 at 10:59 am

Hello Kyle, was it hard for you when you clime thetallest mnt.

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ray October 29, 2012 at 11:12 am

i read this one becaue i think this would be the best one it was good

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Wilder October 29, 2012 at 11:56 am

I totally agree because I’ve been mean to my parents lately and I want to change something in my life.I want to be nicer and kinder to my parents.Because I have been mean to them lately.

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menon October 29, 2012 at 12:43 pm

this passage was very inspiring to myself. i found it amazing.

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brittany October 29, 2012 at 12:44 pm

I have learned that I don’t have yo chang everything about myself all i have to do is change one thing and god first in my life and things will be diffrent. I was so impressed when i seen all of your accomplishments. I hope you have a nice rest of the day.

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Price October 29, 2012 at 1:19 pm

You have inspired so many people and you’re one of the few people that i look up to.

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plumley October 29, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Kyle, you have inspired me a lot to work hard everyday, and never give up on my dreams.

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Anderson October 29, 2012 at 2:52 pm

You are so amazing. You are so inspirational to me and to others. I really want to meet you in person, but I can’t because I am only 11. You are turely amazing. I can’t belive you can lift weights, eat, drive, and type.

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Leah October 29, 2012 at 2:59 pm

how old are your kids?

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tutu October 29, 2012 at 3:08 pm

kyle- Your an insperation too alot of people but especially me.The only reason is because you have never gave up on any of your goals and makes my heart just like smile.Im not sure if that makes any sense.I also heard about you climbing kilaminjaroo and thats just amazingly awesome.Im sorry i have to go but i wish u the best of luck and remember i m your biggest insperation ever!!!!!!!!!!!! :)

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Ryan October 29, 2012 at 9:52 pm

I know the secret to happiness!

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No name October 29, 2012 at 9:58 pm

Speaking of changes….

If you could, then would like to have arms and legs and be able to do a lot more things?
For example: strolling in the park, playing a musical instrument, or other things like that.

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Ryan October 29, 2012 at 9:59 pm

The secret to happiness is

to be continued…………

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Ryan October 29, 2012 at 10:01 pm

TO BE HAPPY!

:)@:) :) :D

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Ryan October 29, 2012 at 10:01 pm

TO BE HAPPY!

:)@:) :) :D

Reply

Ryan October 29, 2012 at 10:01 pm

TO BE HAPPY!

:)@:) :) :D

Reply

Ryan October 29, 2012 at 10:01 pm

TO BE HAPPY!

:)@:) :) :D

Reply

Ryan October 29, 2012 at 10:01 pm

TO BE HAPPY!

:)@:) :) :D

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Ryan October 29, 2012 at 10:02 pm

Sorry! Hee, hee, hee. (: I triple clicked it.

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