Do you know that the way you make decisions can affect your happiness?
When you are trying to make a decision, about a purchase, for instance, do you spend a lot of time researching your choices, narrowing your choices, researching some more? Do you spend time searching through consumer and/or expert reviews? Do you know your choices inside and out before you make your final – the optimal – decision? Are you forever seeking to find the best of whatever it is you are seeking? If so, you are a “maximizer.”
Or, when making a decision, do you have in mind what you want, look for it, and then make your decision without further ado when your criteria are met? Are you content to find the thing that meets your criteria, without worrying too much about the “perfect” or “best” out there? If so, you are a “satisficer.”
It may not surprise you to know that the maximizers amongst us usually do end up with the best – the best cars, the best electronics, the best jobs. As a matter of fact, there are some statistics that show maximizers make an average of $7000/year more than satisficers (Barry Schwartz, 2004, The Paradox of Choice).
On the other hand, it may surprise you to learn that though the maximizers have the best stuff, they suffer when it comes to happiness. It’s true! The research shows that in many measures that correlate with happiness, satisficers come out ahead. Maximizers report being more depressed, stressed, frustrated, and tired. Satisficers report feeling less overwhelmed; they report feeling lower levels of anxiety and regret (Schwartz). Satisficers are, in a word, happier.
Now, please be advised that the implication here is NOT that we shouldn’t care about our decisions. The implication is that making a decision based on established criteria, then ending the search once the criteria is met, will lead to greater happiness and feelings of well-being than making a decision based on finding the very best: “I want a house with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a garage, and a covered patio, and I want to pay somewhere between $200,000 and $230,000” vs. “I want a house with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a garage, and a covered patio, and I want to find the very best price in the very best location, and I will not stop looking until I have looked at every property in a 200-mile radius.” You don’t have to search under every rock to find something that will satisfy your criteria! Satisficers feel good about their decisions, then move on. Maximizers often agonize over their decisions, conduct exhaustive searches, then agonize that there is probably something better out there still, and instead of feeling satisfied and moving on to the next decision, they feel regretful and stressed.
In conclusion: figure out what you want, look for it, then stop looking for it once you have found it. Be a satisficer, and be happy!
peace and love,