This Is the Reason You Suck At Making Decisions (And What You Can Do About It)

A political scientist and economist in the 50s named Herbert A. Simon first coined the terms Maximizer and Satisficer. If you suck at making decisions, it’s probably because you’re a Maximizer.

When Maximizers approach decisions, they are perfectionists. They want to review every single option. They want to know everything before they move forward and make a choice.

For example, if they were going to buy a new computer, they wouldn’t just do a little research, pick something and move on. They would research for a long time until they felt like they knew everything, until they knew all of their possible options. And only then after agonizing research and weighing pros and cons, would they make a decision.

Not only does this approach take a lot of time and energy, it’s also a quest for something that is likely unattainable. It’s impossible to know FOR SURE what the best option is no matter how much research you do. So the search for the “perfect” or “best” option is generally fruitless.

Satisficers on the other hand, are the total opposite. The word “Satisficers” comes from the word satisfied, so these people pick an option that is good enough and move on.

If a Satisficer was buying a computer, they would Google computers, pick the first or second thing they saw, buy it and move on with their life. Unsurprisingly, it’s been found that people who are Satisficers tend to be happier and have less depression and anxiety than people who are maximizers.

So if you’re a Maximizer, like me, what can you do to have a happier life? Here’s what I came up with. 

There’s something that Dr. Barry Schwartz calls “the paradox of choice.” Basically, this means that if you have too many options, you will be overwhelmed, and the decision making process will become really stressful. When you finally do choose something, you will be less satisfied with your choice than you would have been if you had had fewer options.

So understanding what we know about Satisficers and Maximizers and what we know about the paradox of choice, what I came up with is something I call, “great enough.” 

I am not willing to be a full Satisficer and just settle by picking something that’s “good enough,” but I AM willing to settle on something that’s GREAT enough.

What that means for me is when I’m in the information gathering phase of decision making, I will do some research, but I will limit the amount of time I spend in information gathering mode. 

As soon as I find an option that is “great enough” (not perfect), I pick it and I move on.