Satisficer or maximizer?

When it comes to making decisions, are you a satisficer or a maximizer?

A satisficer makes a decision once they find an option that meets their criteria. This doesn’t mean they have low standards, it just means they are quick to take action once they find what they are looking for. For example, if a satisficer wanted a new, navy blue suitcase under $100, with wheels, once they find a suitcase that fits that criteria, they will make the purchase. A satisficer isn’t worried that they will end up finding something better later on – if a choice fits their criteria, they decide and move on.

On the other hand, a maximizer wants to know they have picked the best option available, and they do this by considering all possible alternatives. So, if a maximizer wanted a new suitcase, they wouldn’t make a purchase until they had scoured eight different stores, browsed online for suitcases, and asked several friend’s opinions on the best suitcase to buy.

Turns out, maximizers are usually less happy at the end of the day with their choices.  Maximizers turn every decision into a pyschologically daunting task (I’m not just buying a suitcase, I have to buy the best suitcase ever), which adds lots of stress and anxiety to the decision making process. And, all of the mental turmoil usually ends up taking some joy out of the final result.

People can be satisficers or maximizers in different areas of their lives – picking a volunteer position to commit to, buying new shoes, choosing an item off the menu, deciding on a movie to watch, deciding what dream to pursue…

When it comes to exploring a potential dream, are you a maximizer or a satisficer? Do you spend a lot of time trying to pick the absolute best internship to apply to, the perfect volunteer trip to take, or “the right”  class to sign up for? Are you worried if you make a decision, you’ll miss out on a “better dream?”

If you’re unsure about your path in life, and trying to “maximize” your dream exploration- relax! Take a satisficer approach to exploring potential passions and test runs.

Come up with a list of criteria for your test run, see if one of your options meets the criteria, make a decision and move on. Action, not rumination, will led you to your dream.

For more on satisficers and maximizers, read Barry Schwartz’s book, The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less.


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