I am listening to Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project” on my morning walks. http://www.happiness-project.com/. In yesterday’s segment (I don’t remember which month of her project I am in… you’ll have to listen to it!), she talked about the idea that people fall into one of two categories when it comes to making decisions, “Maximizers” and “Satisficers.” Let’s think about this in terms of making a purchase. A Satisficer goes into a decision with a specific minimum criteria for the thing they need (this may not be spelled out on paper, but they know it), and when they find a product or meet a service provider who satisfies that criteria, they take action. They pull the trigger. It may not be the best possible (electrician, hair care product, or diaper bag) around, but it does the job, and it is there right now. Decision made, job done.
A Maximizer, on the other hand, tends to try to make the “right” decision, every time. They may spend hours doing research, or ask for 15 opinions before taking action. I would say almost all of my clients tend toward being Maximizers. Not surprising, because so do I. I really enjoyed this distinction, however, because in my own journey I have actually learned to become a Satisficer in most instances. I cannot tell you how much time and energy this shift has made! An example that comes to mind is that of booking a hotel for vacation. My “Maximizer” self would like to be aware of every single hotel in the area, and how they rate on tripadvisor.com, what they cost, how far from the main attractions, and what other features they have. Then, based on a complex decision making system, they (I) would determine the “best” possible hotel that met most of the criteria and provided the best value. My “Satisficer” persona knows I am willing to pay $X/ night, and anything better is fantastic, I want a hot tub, reviewers must have rated it at least a 4 with no complaints of mold, and I want to be able to walk to my two favorite attractions. AS SOON AS I find the one that meets this criteria, I book it. Period.
Now, this thought is likely scary for a natural “Maximizer.” We have something in us that says “I must make the RIGHT and BEST choice, or else.” I could write a very long entry about the fallacy of thinking there is a “right” answer, but not today. I will simply say – what does it cost you to Maximize every decision? Where could you give up trying to do it Right? We often have a sense of pride wrapped up in the idea of getting the best deal, or the best product. What if you were to shift your thinking and feel proud of yourself for not worrying about it, and taking pride in the time you save, and the sense of freedom involved in just doing it?
A recent example. I purchased a Flip Video camera (watch out, video blogs coming soon). I knew I wanted a camera to put video on my website. An “expert” videographer recommended the Kodak ZI-8 Camera, and dissed the Flip. Well, the Kodak ZI-8 camera was out of stock for the entire month of December and most of January. The Maximizer in me began to agonize about this decision. Do I wait for it be back in stock at some unknown time and stop my forward progress because I want the “right” camera, or do I pick the next best thing? I was even able to buy my Flip for free with my credit card points, yet I was hesitant to not go with the best. I would check for the camera in stock every few days (time), and in the meantime not have a video (opportunity cost). Finally I realized my perfectionist was at work, not wanting to get the suboptimal product, even though for my needs, it really did satisfy the criteria. And it was FREE. I am now the proud owner of a Flip UltraHD. I have taken 1 video of my dog. 🙂