Are you a maximizer or a satisficer? (and what it means for your wellbeing…)

I have some bad habits when it comes to decision making. I like to consider ALL of my options, do my research, discuss it with interested (or pretending to be interested) parties, make some lists, have a think, sleep on it and just generally agonise myself to a standstill. The bigger the decision, or the more money I’m being asked to spend(!), the more likely I am to overthink (and oversweat) it.

Unless I’m really, really busy.

Then I’m a decision making machine. Got a decision to make? Check! And onto the next thing on the list.

So I was really interested to read a Wall Street Journal article I spotted recently about decision making. There’s a school of thought that puts people into two categories (Gretchen Rubin also talks about this in her book The Happiness Project – see her blog post on it here). If you’re a maximizer (like me in default worry mode) you like to think things through and make decisions slowly and with careful consideration of all the options. If you’re a satisficer (like busy me), you just like to make a decision as quickly as possible and will prioritise the conclusion over the process. The Wall Street piece isn’t about deciding which is better but it did ask the question about whether one type of decision maker was happier with the outcome of their decision than the other.

The conclusion? There wasn’t really a difference. And it got me thinking about busy me vs worrying me. If I’m really honest, I don’t think I make better decisions after all the overthinking. Perhaps the anxiety over getting it wrong crowds out the intuition that I’m better able to tune into when I’m surfing a busy wave. Perhaps in some cases I get so utterly sick of the drawn out process that I end up switching to satisficer right at the end and just making a snap choice to be free of it.

If I’m not appreciably happier taking the maximizer route then it’s fair to question whether it’s worth my time. In some cases, being a maximizer might be increasing my stress levels – there’s a really interesting scientific piece on that here, which examines the effect of having too many options. Getting anxious and stressed over something I’m unlikely to think much about in the future seems a bit pointless. So in the interests of wellbeing, I’m going to try thinking more like a satisficer, as if my time is precious ALL of the time and not just when I’m running to keep up with my to do list.

Some decisions will be worth extra time and most won’t. I just need to get better at sorting them out and give my time (and energy) more mindfully. And then find some fun things to do with all that free time I’m going to have!

What do you think? Are you a maximizer or a satisficer? Or a bit of both? What decisions do you struggle with?

One thought on “Are you a maximizer or a satisficer? (and what it means for your wellbeing…)

  1. Interesting. I’m a mix depending on the the type of decision – on work front definitely more of a satisficer. Sometimes the journey – researching etc….is more fun than the actual end result and you realise you don’t want or need whatever it was.

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