Image courtesy of Obsidian Soul
Several years ago, I read the book The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz, which completely changed the way I look at decision making. I immediately started telling J how he was doing his decision making all wrong and I brandished the book at him as proof of my theory. J understandably got a little tired of hearing about this and managed to avoid reading the book even though I recommended it to him about once every 37 minutes for three months. (I was really restraining myself, I must say).
The book suggests that there are two types of decision-makers. The first type are what Schwartz calls maximizers. These are the individuals who meticulously research their decisions, carefully weighing options and features, and waiting to make a final decision until after they are absolutely certain they have found the platonic ideal of whatever it is they are researching. Unfortunately, since nothing in this world is ideal, maximizers tend to second guess their decisions even after they have been made. Because there still might be a better option out there.
The other type of decision-makers are called satisficers. Unlike the maximizers, satisficers are willing to accept whatever is good enough that fits their basic criteria. So a satisficer looking for a new pair of jeans will go ahead and purchase the first pair they try on that fit, are within their price range, and don't make their butt look too big. A maximizer will keep looking, because there's got to be a better pair of jeans out there somewhere.
As it turns out, J is a maximizer and I am a satisficer.
(Mostly. There are a few things that I go crazy maximizer on, like finding the crib for LO before he was born. I wanted something built in America [because of the lead concerns from China] that was a convertible crib that was not ridiculously expensive that came in a dark wood etc, ad infinitum. I finally found a crib [that I couldn't afford but Grandmensches kindly purchased for us] and then the child didn't sleep in his crib for the first year. I'm hoping that cured me of any maximizer tendencies.)
Maximizers tend to drive satisficers a little crazy, which is why I believe they often marry each other. You see, satisficers are just pleased to have a decision taken care of and done with, while maximizers don't consider any past decision, include what to eat for lunch two hours ago, as off the table. You can often hear a satisficer who is married to a maximizer shout in exasperation, "But we already decided on this!"
For me, I know that I have been a satisficer most of my life, although not always. I actually know the moment when I changed over from maximizing to satisficing.
That moment occurred on a trip to Toys R Us when I was a child and my dad was insane. He took myself, my sister, and my cousin to the toy store to each pick out a toy for ourselves. I was torn between the Snoopy Sno-Cone maker and another toy which has been lost to the mists of memory and time. I took so long pacing between these two toys that my father finally told me (with saintlike patience) to decide now or I would go home with nothing. (On an unrelated note, I don't believe I ever set foot in a toy store again until I was a grown woman and I could drive myself there). Forced by authority to finally choose, I went for the toy that wasn't the Snoopy Sno-Cone maker. I have no idea whatsoever as to what toy I chose that day, but I can still describe to the last detail the Snoopy Sno-Cone machine.
(Or I could just look up a picture of it because we live in the future and Google Images is a thing).
To make a long story short, I was maximizing.
With that particular toy defeat in my head--since I clearly did not get my father's money's worth of enjoyment out of the other toy, what with all the Sno-Cone pining--I stopped being nearly so particular and started making decisions that were practical and based on less stringent criteria. It's how I bought the third wedding dress I tried on. (True story!)
That's not to say that satisficers are always happier with their decisions (although that's pretty much exactly what Schwartz is saying). I have certainly satisficed my way into some doozies of bad purchases/decisions. But for those purchases that don't turn out to be mistakes, satisficers are much happier with them than their maximizer counterparts are. Because satisficers don't spend all their time yearning for the Snoopy Sno-Cone machine that got away.
So, whenever J starts maximizing his decisions, I try very hard to refrain from telling him "You're doing it wrong! Remember the Snoopy!" I recognize that each individual must experience his own Snoopy Sno-Cone epiphany moment and that learning to be satisfied with good enough is a lifelong process.
Also, I imagine I'd sound pretty annoying.
Snoopy Sno-Cone Maker image source.