I recently retrieved Free from its dusty spot on my toilet (it’s my favorite spot for books that I want to read but haven’t quite gotten to yet). As I was reading through it, a portion about how something being “free” affects our psychology really affected me. It stated that eliminating a price eliminates people’s intrinsically human fear of making the wrong decision. If something is even 1 cent, according to Dan Ariely, it triggers a fear of what the consequences may be.
It’s an interesting thought, isn’t it? It’s something that I can certainly stand behind, as I tend to think about the consequences of spending my money pretty heavily.
It’s funny to me how this represents a weird kind of dichotomy. My gut reaction upon reading this was to think “man, if this is triggering some kind of fear in me, I should figure out how to eliminate as many decisions as possible.”
That’s really only one piece of the puzzle, though.
Let’s swing to the opposite end of the spectrum: what happens if we don’t have any choice? We start resenting it and we start not caring. Think about all those community college dropouts that don’t care about their education.
So it seems like there are different categories of choices. There are those that really don’t matter, yet still exact a toll on us. They take up time, worrying etc. Then there’s another category, those that matter: these are the things we should worry about. We have to make those choices — otherwise, they may not matter enough or they may not really represent where we want our lives to go.
I think that, in my life at least, I’m way too worried about that first category – the category that doesn’t matter. Or, I should say, I put too many things that should be in the first category into the second “necessary” category. The chances of me not being happy with something are actually pretty damn low. I’m happy with most everything. So why in the world am I worrying so much about it?
I really need to stop worrying so much.