We were waiting to pay for our groceries and realized we’d forgotten the pasta for that evening’s dinner party. I raced back down the aisle and… um… did you know there are over 50 different options for linguini alone? Which will our guests most prefer? Egg-free, whole wheat, organic, tomato or spinach-infused, fresh or traditional, generic or brand name…??
By the time I returned to the checkout I was in a state of high anxiety from trying to make The Best Linguini Decision. “Don’t ever send me to the pasta aisle alone,” I begged my wife. She just shook her head.
We’re like this with clothes, too. If I need new pants they must be The Best Deal, so I check ads for sales, visit every rack in at least three stores, try on numerous pairs, then (finally) choose. Cheryl, on the other hand, will visit one store, try on maybe two pair, and buy one. Done.
Maximizer versus Satisfier
When it comes to making decisions we all fall somewhere along the Maximizer-Satisfier scale. (to find where you land, take this assessment)
Maximizers need to be assured that every purchase or decision they make was the BEST possible. Yet how to know if any given option is the best? Research. Get more data. Delay the decision. Talk to friends. Make the decision, but… then worry about whether it was the absolute best choice.
Satisfiers simply want to make a GOOD decision. Like Maximizers, they set out to meet specific criteria in their decisions and purchases. The difference is that Satisfiers seek excellence, yet don’t obsess over achieving the Absolute Best. Once they make a decision that is good enough, they never look back.
Let Go to Feel Happier
A continual focus on making the absolute best decisions can be a core talent but, like any strength, can become a weakness when overused. We live in a world of seemingly infinite choices anymore. If you are unaware of your own drive to always make perfect decisions, you can end up generally unhappy because you’re constantly shy of a near-impossible standard.
Other ideas to help Maximizers reduce the anxiety of decision-making:
- Choose when to choose. Decide to restrict your options when the decision is not crucial. For example, make a rule to visit no more than two stores when shopping for clothing.
- Learn to accept “good enough.” Settle for a choice that meets your core requirements rather than searching for the elusive “best.” Then stop thinking about it.
- Don’t worry about what you’re missing. Consciously limit how much you ponder the seemingly attractive features of options you reject. Practice by focusing on the positive aspects of the choices you make.
- Temper expectations. “Don’t expect too much, and you won’t be disappointed” is a cliché. But that advice is sensible if you want to be more satisfied with life.
I hold high standards for my work, but have learned that striving constantly to create perfection is not only exhausting but it tends to feed my procrastination. To counter my own Maximizer tendencies, I’ve asked others for advice. Now, when I am working on non-critical project I remind myself that “80% is good enough;” and when it comes to meeting deadlines, I consider the words of thought leader Seth Godin, “Done is better than perfect!”
Next: Maximizer and Satisfier in Leadership