Psychologist Barry Schwartz Offers "Life Skills Your Mother Never Taught You"

Barry Schwartz

CNN: Life Skills Your Mother Never Taught You

Trust your gut and know when to walk away - these were some of the life tips provided by Barry Schwartz, Dorwin Cartwright Professor of Social Theory and Social Action, in an article that recently appeared on CNN Living.

Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, says it's a "fool's errand" to shoulder the obligation of finding the "absolute ideal option" in life's decisions.

The more we agonize over a decision, the more paralyzed we become, Schwartz explains, and the greater our potential for unhappiness later. Pros and cons are not always of equal weight, so instead of making a 10-foot, two-column list, he advised, sit down and ask your gut first. There may be 244 reasons not to go back to school, but how do they stack up against one pro like "If I don't, I'll always regret it"?

After you've discovered what's really in your heart of hearts, take the pressure off by lowering your expectations then do your best not to look back. "Revisiting decisions after you've made them is not a good idea," says Schwartz. "If you do, you'll find a lot to be dissatisfied with. There's no blueprint for infallibility. Success is getting it wrong as infrequently as possible."

Schwarz also notes that our culture has increasingly adopted a zero-tolerance policy for error, but the way you develop good judgment is by using it, and by recalibrating your relationship with failure.

Another handy life skill: Knowing when to walk away.

Schwartz evoked the wisdom of Kenny Rogers: " 'You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em.' "