Sunday, October 23, 2005

Jade is the New Blue

We don’t just get sad anymore. We become jaded.

I think there is a difference.

Those who are sad mourn their current losses, but can imagine an end to their melancholy, whereas those who are jaded are not only unhappy in the present, they become skeptical that the future holds any more promise. In short, jaded people become bitter people.

People are jaded by their job, jaded by the ‘dating scene,’ and jaded by politics.

But who are these jaded people?

You might expect these jaded people are intellectually challenged, unemployed, or full of debilitating acne. Nopers.

One is my attractive young friend who has a great job, good lifestyle, but despite meeting many eligible dudes, she can’t seem to find one she really likes (or at least not for long). Another is a brilliant ex-colleague who has tried out a number of careers, is successful at all of them, but constantly feels miserable in his job due to the nagging suspicion that a far more fulfilling job is out there.

Most people would be green with envy.

Isn’t it strange that the word "Jaded" means the opposite of "Jade." How is it that a beautiful, green, semi-precious stone is related to the word for a state of sad bitterness?

After some fruitless "google" searching, I decided take the old-fashioned route of searching through the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. What I found was quite interesting.

Apparently there are two meanings of the term "jade." The first is the stone. The next is reproduced below:

Jade(2)/dzeid/n.1. an inferior or worn-out horse. 2. Derogatory: a disreputable woman

Okay, so jaded is not related to the stone. I choose not to explore the relationship between these two meanings of Jade(2).

Now, here is the interesting part:

Definition of Jaded:

Jaded/’dzeideit/adj. Tired or worn out; surfeited

Surfeited/v. 1. fill, supply, or feed to excess. 2. Be or cause to be wearied through excess

Whereas we think of jaded people as those who are missing something, the Oxford reveals that jaded people suffer from too much.

It was with this idea in mind that the book "The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less" by Barry Schwartz caught my attention.

The thesis of the book is simple. To a certain extent, having choices liberates us. But past a certain point, options paralyze us and can make us less satisfied with the choices we actually make.

Schwartz illustrates this phenomenon in a number of ways. My favourite example is an experiment that was done with chocolates. One group in the experiment was asked to choose one bonbon from a small box of chocolates. The other group had a much larger variety to choose from. Then each taster was asked to rate their satisfaction with the chocolate they chose.

Almost invariably, the tasters who had had a far smaller selection rated their satisfaction higher.

Schwartz illustrates why it is that too much choice ends up lessening our satisfaction with our education, or relationships, and with our jobs.

One of the main reasons for this phenomenon, he argues, is due to regret. The greater number of options we have, the greater number of things we ‘give up’ once our choice had been made.

So where am I going with all this?

Am I advocating for a new totalitarian Canadian society? Do I think we should all cease personal grooming in order to make ourselves less attractive (and thereby decrease our mate options)?


Schwartz suggests we work at lessening our regret by making irreversible decisions (so we’re not always thinking ‘what if’ and looking back. He also suggests we become aware of sunk costs of our decisions.

Personally, my going-forward strategy is to never make a decision…

Magic 8 ball says: Response hazy, try again.


Anonymous willcheckback said...

intersting thought... now does this relate to the idea of never settling?? it seems that in today's day and age people keep saying not to "settle" on anything. not accepting reality is more like it i guess.

11:44 PM  
Blogger kjh1972 said...

I can honestly say I don't ever feel jaded, no matter what definition you use. I get sad at lots of things, and I share a lot of the same problems as your friend who always thinks a better job is around the corner, but "jaded" is not a term I would use loosely. To me jaded means bitter, and I always try to be resilient and not allow bitterness or negativity to have an impact on my life.

3:13 PM  
Blogger Nadine said...

Yay! I love comments...
WCB, I think that this never settling thing has to do with the fact that as soon as one makes a choice, one's freedom is constrained and we regret all the things we've given up in the process.

Hendsbee - more people should have your attitude (or maybe they do, but the squeaky wheel gets the grease?). It definitely takes way less energy to just passively become jaded than to be 'resilient' as you are. Denis Prager wrote a book called "Happiness is a Serious Problem" where he argues, that we are morally obligated to work at being happy (or at the very least, to fight bitterness). Happy people are more productive and are generally motivated to do more good for society. Bitter people not only negatively impact on their own lives, but on the lives of others.

4:58 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:35 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Or... perhaps it is the opposite. Perhaps the grass does NOT grow greener on the other side of the fence. You see, although I often slept through my social psychology class, I do recall one thing about cognitive dissonance and decision-making. Once we make a decision, we tend to find all sorts of support for that decision, and thus we often reduce the dissonance by upgrading the chosen alternative and downgrading the the unchosen option. Big decisions/many decisions can produce big dissonance. Thus, it may be that the norm is for one to 'settle' at a job, and then think of all of the positive aspects of the choice, so as to avoid a feeling of regret and unrest. The person who believes that a better job, or a better boyfriend is around the corner, i.e. the jaded person, should, if the definition stands to be one who suffers from "too much", in this line of reasoning, feel even more support for their chosen alternative, and never bust a move. Because we are faced with so many decisions in life - many of which are arbitrary - it may be that cognitive dissonance is our only protection from becoming 'jaded'.
Or maybe in my hunger haze, I missed the point entirely.

8:39 PM  
Blogger Nadine said...

I think that cognitive dissonance occurs only insofar as our decisions are (practically) non-reversible.

Imagine you buy an expensive dress for an upcoming wedding. Then, on the way home, you see another purple dress that costs less. Now, if the store from which you have bought the dress has a 100% full refund policy, you may be dissatisfied with your decision, return the dress, and buy dress #2. However, if the store was ‘no refunds, no exchanges whatsoever,’ this is where cognitive dissonance is likely to come into play. You will, as you argue, look for reasons why dress #1 is actually better, and convince yourself that you got the better deal.

I think that cognitive dissonance may be the exact reason why Schwartz suggests we make our decisions non-reversible. Because non-committal decisions are the enemy of cognitive dissonance. And, as you have pointed out, cognitive dissonance may be the key to avoiding buyer’s remorse (and other forms of regret).

9:43 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

that'll teach you to buy your dresseson ebay ;)

10:03 PM  
Blogger scott. said...

in the right light, the cute Barista aprons bear a striking resemblance to the colour "jade".

12:11 AM  
Blogger Nadine said...

Okay, I realized later that purchasing my purple maid-of-honour dress for M's wedding on e-bay from a woman in Scotland was a bad idea. But it was so gorgeous - rock-a-billy-style. I couldn't help myself.

Unfortunatley, the dress never arrived and the beeotch refused to refund my money, stopped replying to my emails, and was barred from ebay shortly thereafter.

I hope you read this, you haggis face dress cow: If I'm ever in Aberdeen I'm going to track you down and you'll curse the day we became paypals.

9:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


7:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

no, YOU'RE dumb!

7:24 AM  
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