Maximize or Satisfice?

Back in November, I wrote a slightly tongue in cheek post about Mike Cope’s first of three write ups on the book The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less by Barry Schwartz. At the time, I even joked about how nice it was for Mike to read the book for me, so I didn’t have to.
Then he wrote posts two and three.
In number 2, he lays out the differnce between the Maximizer and the Satisficer:

A maximizer needs for every decision or every purchase to be the very best that could possibly be made. …
The satisficer is someone who settles for something that works — something that is good enough — without fretting over whether or not there is something better.

Me a Maximiser? Guilty as charged.
He then lists 12 point questionaire where you rank each item bewteen 1 and 7 to judge whether you are a Maximizer or a Satisficer (see the questions in his post). He indicates that ‘extreme maximization scores’ – where you’re on the border of clinically depressed – are 65 or higher. Mine was 52. Ugh.
He wraps it up:

A maximizer is often wondering if there isn’t a better gift, a better church, a better doctor, a better vitamin, a better health club, a better cable option . . . . It isn’t just about high standards; it’s about a sense of discontentment (fueled, perhaps by concern for social status and the explosion of options).
For a maximizer, the overload of choice . . . is a nightmare. But for a satisficer, it does not have to be such a burden. In fact, the more options there are, the more likely it is that the satisficer will find one that meets his or her standards. Adding options doesn’t necessarily add much work for the satisficer, because the satisficer feels no compulsion to check out all the possibilities before deciding.

Boy, that really hits home. I find myself frequenty over analyzing my options, searching out reviews and opinions and then sondering later if I made the right choice.
In post #3, Mike gets to the practicals. In other words, what’s a maximizer to do?
He sums up the problem:

So much of happiness comes down to decisions we make to be contented. The problem with a maximizing approach to life … is that we’re never quite satisfied. They could have chosen (a car . . . a spouse . . . a church) better, perhaps, so they’re always looking over their shoulders and living in regret.

It’s about my choosing to be contented rather than choosing to be perfect. I mask it by saying I’m looking for exelence, but the reality is I want to be perfect, to make the perfect choice. Well, I can’t and as long as i prend that I can, I will not be content.
He then shares 4 of Schwartz’s 11 suggestions (You can read his elaborations on his site):

  1. Choose when to choose.
  2. Satisfice more and maximize less.
  3. Make your decisions nonreversible.
  4. Practice an “attitude of gratitude.”

As I said, I mentioned in my first post how it was great that folks like Mike actually buy and read the books, summing it up on their blogs, so I don’t have to. But his posts have made me think that this is a book that I actually need to go read.

4 thoughts on “Maximize or Satisfice?

  1. Mike Cope’s blog today tells of two missionaries to Africa who were killed yesterday in a car accident. Mike refers us to the online journal of Adam, one of the two. His last post speaks volumes to this question.

  2. Ummm…
    Did the author write a book about me…the one who

    settles for something that works — something that is good enough — without fretting over whether or not there is something better.

    I love being content. But being content when more effort, time, research, studying…etc is needed is as bad as being a maximizer! We settle for far less than we should, and never achieve any real results or accomplishments.

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