Why More Is Less

I would have to be the first to admit that sometimes one can try to put too much into one’s day: some of it a choice, some of it mandated. Furthermore, separating the ‘have to do’, ‘want to do’, and ‘could do’ items from one’s day is something I find difficult. Like this article in the wellness blog at the nytimes on meditation. It’s quite funny article written by a man’s wife about the silliness behind someone adding two hours of meditation to his day, but who ends up taking those same hours away from his sleep. Really? Are the benefits of meditation that good that one cuts into their sleep time for it? So what is it, sleep or meditation that makes us healthy? Maybe it’s both, but who has time for that?

In the last 15 years I’ve been teaching I’ve come to the conclusion that teachers keep getting asked to do more and more. And like the article below, nothing gets taken out. It’s all additive. Even if you integrate many of the curricular items, at some point, teachers who are asked to do so much more end up doing less. Paradoxes and opposing viewpoints are great as I think they force us to think critically about what’s going on. For example, do choices make us happy? Will students perform better if they are given choices? I hope all school policy makers aren’t swayed by the first thing they read, hear, or view, and find multiple perspectives of the issues before making their decisions.

Take a look at the following TED talks below. The first is from Sheena Iyengar who will be the keynote at this year’s NAIS conference. I won’t be going, but it’s quite interesting to find many of the keynotes on youtube or TED these days, and I hope to follow a few of them. I’ll leave it up to those going to the conference this year to share what they’ve learned. The title of her Ms. Iyengar’s talk is called The Art of Choosing. An American herself, she says that most Americans believe that choice is theirs to have. Starbuck’s slogan, “Happiness is in your choices” or Burger King’s “Have it your way,” are two examples she uses. The perception of choice isn’t the same elsewhere in the world and those perceptions of choice are cultural.

The second TED talk is from Malcolm Gladwell who talks about a researcher who discovered that there is no best flavor for spaghetti sauce, but rather ‘best flavors‘ and that it’s choices that make us happy. Really?

Of course if you want to get into some of the nitty gritty of choice, you can read The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less by Barry Schwartz. He’s got a TED talk too, but I’ll let you look it up. After all, I wouldn’t want to give you too many to choose from. I’ve been trying to do a lot more this year, and in the end the toll it’s taken on my health (lack of sleep, weight loss) and mental wellbeing has taught me that indeed, sometimes more is less.




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