Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Jane Austen's heroines *were* happier

So this article in the NYtimes perfectly captures the debate my friend April and I have been having for over a decade now. We love the choices we have as women in the 21st century, but we read and re-read our Austen novels, and can so easily imagine ourselves as Elizabeth or Emma, and wonder, "Could we have been happy as Austen characters, with the very limited choices they had?"

And there's a quote in this article that pretty much sums it up:
Ms. Stevenson was recently having drinks with a business school graduate who came up with a nice way of summarizing the problem. Her mother’s goals in life, the student said, were to have a beautiful garden, a well-kept house and well-adjusted children who did well in school. “I sort of want all those things, too,” the student said, as Ms. Stevenson recalled, “but I also want to have a great career and have an impact on the broader world.”
Opportunities are great, but it turns out you have to actually make choices (and eschew buyer's remorse), not actually count on or hope for doing it all to actually be happy. And as I may have blogged about before, one of my favorite books, The Paradox of Choice, makes clear, in a lot of cases--especially as regards not so important choices, less is definitely better. What's not so clear yet for me is whether in practice it's also true for more important choices too ...


April said...

In his Ted Talk Dan Gilbert presents recent research that explains how constraints on choice lead to higher levels of happiness.

April said...

In his Ted Talk Dan Gilbert presented recent evidence on how constraints on choice lead to higher levels of happiness