How much ignorance makes you blissful?

The other day I was looking at a company’s informational brochure about the various programs and services they offer. It was 44 pages long. Seriously, forty-four pages! I understand that they want to cover everything and be able to offer something of interest to everyone, but honestly, 44 pages?

The brochure went into the recycling bin before I’d gotten past the third page, losing the company a potential customer. They just offered me too much information.

The situation reminded me of the books, The Paradox of Choice and Stumbling Upon Happiness, both of which discuss how too many choices make us unhappy. With unlimited choice comes unlimited indecision and increasing unhappiness.

I’m not sure I agree with this idea. You see, I’ve always been a bit of a Goldilocks when it comes to information. Give me too little information and I feel that I’m being forced into something I don’t agree with. Give me too much information and I feel overwhelmed and paralyzed. But give me just enough information that I feel that I’m making an informed choice and away I go, happy with the decision I’ve made.

What’s the key word there?

Feel.

There’s no such thing as too much information or too little. There is just enough to make you feel right about the decision you are making.

When it comes to politics, I know where my heart lies, so I need very little information to convince me that my favorite party is the one to vote for. However, when it comes to buying a house, there’s no end to the information that I collect before making the decision (neighborhood, taxes, possible renovation costs, neighbors, schools, and the list goes on and on).

But, sit me down in a restaurant and give me a one or two page menu, I’m thrilled. (Home-style, no choice restaurants scare me a little, and large chains with ten-page menus kill my appetite.)

When it comes to organizing, the same scale exists. What is your personal comfort level of stuff in different situations? At work, I’m the king of processes, with everything carefully documented and labelled. At home, I’m happy owning only a few things and labelling nothing.

In other words, don’t let anyone tell you what is the “right” amount of stuff or whether it’s well-organized or not.

It all comes down to your level of bliss. What makes you happy? Ignorance? Information-saturation?

It’s up to you.

2 Comments for “How much ignorance makes you blissful?”

  1. posted by Pat McDermott on

    Great book published about this in the late 1980s: Information Anxiety by Richard Saul Wurman. Wurman is an architect & graphic designer who has spent much of his career exploring how to present information.

    He started Access guides in 1980, with Access LA. His Access DC guide was fabulous. Better content than Eyewitness guidebooks (but must admit I like the color photos and bird’s eye diagrams in Eyewitness guides).

    He’s most famous for starting TED talks in 1984.

  2. posted by Kenneth in Virginia on

    Sometimes too much information is intimidating; at other times, it’s comforting. Our new Volkswagen has an owner’s manual that’s a half-inch thick and so does my year-old Ford. But the Ford came with a thin brochure with just the essential information. But the cars are admittedly more complicated than they used to be.

    At work, however, my boss of 18 years just retired (which I’m going to do in about three months). In the meantime, I have to do several computer-related jobs at month end that I’ve never done before. It isn’t a change; it’s just something new for me. He spent all of about ten minutes, including interruptions, telling me everything I needed to know, which was about two hours short of the time I really needed.

    Over the years, though, I’ve come to accept change as normal, if not necessarily progress. I’ve been through more changes in software than I can count. And the more things change, the less the difference turns out to be.

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