When Making Decisions, Are You a Satisficer or a Maximizer?


One of my favorite happiness-project Secrets of Adulthood is “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” But how, you might ask, does this apply in real life? Here’s a good example: decision-making.

There are two approaches to making decisions: as a satisficer (yes, that is a word) or as a maximizer.

Satisficers are those who make a decision or take action once their criteria are met. That doesn’t mean they’ll settle for mediocrity; their criteria can be high, but as soon as they find the olive oil or the briefcase that has the qualities they want, they’re satisfied. Maximizers want to make the optimal decision. Even if they see a camera or rain boots that meets their requirements, they can’t make a decision until after they’ve examined every option, to make the best possible choice.

Studies suggest that satisficers tend to be happier than maximizers; maximizers spend a lot more time and energy to reach a decision, and they’re often anxious about whether they did, in fact, make the best choice.

In almost every situation, I’m a satisficer. Until I learned these terms, I often felt guilty for not spending more time researching my decisions. It seemed imprudent to decide, “Well, this one looks fine to me,” and quit. Now that I know the difference between being a satisficer and being a maximizer, though, I feel better about my approach. Be Gretchen.

Does one of these approaches ring true for you? Are you a satisficer or a maximizer? How does it affect your happiness?

The days are long, but the years are short.