Choosing Happiness: Are You a Maximizer or a Satisficer?

A couple of months ago, I hit a slump—and I mean, I really hit it. Creatively, physically, socially, emotionally, financially, and mentally. Pretty much any other word you can append a –ly to. Ecumenically. As far as winters of discontent go, this one was admittedly pretty middling, but harsh enough to warrant a bit of sunshine. So, out went one of my favorite summer self-improvement reads, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.

Now, one of the things I love about The Happiness Project is that despite having the word Happiness right-smack in the middle of its title, it’s not an overly sentimental, leap-of-faith, and hokey-ish kind of read. In fact, Rubin spends quite a lot of time citing different studies from psychologists, anthropologists, neurologists, philosophers, and other health and happiness experts. She looks at happiness as something attainable, something you can work towards through a series of actionable items. And I like that. During moments when it feels like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, I need to know that I can still bring my own lamp—light my own way.

So, while I’m in the process of sifting through muck, I wanted to share my thoughts about some of the ideas I’m currently reading about. For today, we’re taking a look at how a person’s decision-making process affects his or her happiness.

Maximizers and Satisficers: A Definition of Terms

One of my favorite ideas from The Happiness Project is something that Rubin picked up from the American psychologist, Barry Schwartz. In Schwartz’s book, The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, he discusses how being faced with so many options can cause us anxiety, stress, and even analysis paralysis. He talks about two distinct types of shoppers—the maximizer and the satisficer.

Now, in the world of economics, it is assumed that buyers are geared towards availing of the best services and products available. Maximizers fit this assumption perfectly. The maximizer is the type of shopper who wants to make the best and the most informed decisions at all times. Even when faced with a product or service that ticks all the boxes, the maximizer won’t be able to make up his or her mind until all options have been examined or exhausted.

For the maximizer, there is always this nagging feeling that something better might be out there. In a way, you can say that maximizers are the consummate perfectionists of the buying world. The maximizer will not settle for anything less than the best. Now, according to an article from Psychology Today, the upside to not settling is that “overall, maximizers achieve better outcomes than satisficers.”

In a 2012 study from Swarthmore College, it was discovered that recent graduates with maximizing tendencies ended up accepting jobs with starting salaries that were up to 20% higher than their satisficing counterparts. However, despite earning more than their peers, the perfectionist aspect of the maximizers still had these graduates second-guessing their decisions. They were still asking themselves, “What if there’s a better option out there?” They were more prone to comparing themselves to others as a way of gauging whether or not they’ve ended up with the best possible outcome.

See, the main downside to being a maximizer is that you’re less certain about the choices you make. This makes a maximizing shopper more prone to disappointment and buyer’s remorse, which in turn lessens his or her happiness levels.

And happiness is where satisficers earn a leg up over their maximizing peers. See, unlike the maximizer and his/her sky-high expectations, satisficers tend to live by a more modest criteria. Don’t get me wrong, the satisficing customer isn’t about to settle for anything less than what he/she originally wanted, but once a product or a service meets the shopper’s requirements, he/she will have no qualms making a decision. And unlike the maximizer, the satisficer stops looking for other options, thereby inoculating him/her against buyer’s remorse.

This is the point that Barry Schwartz makes in The Paradox of Choice. Satisficers tend to be happier than maximizers because they’re perfectly content with “good enough.” They don’t agonize as much over their decisions; and if you think about it, that’s really not a bad way to go through life.

So, are you a Satisficer, a Maximizer, or are you a mix of both?

Now, the beauty of learning about these tendencies is that it lets us take a step back to evaluate what’s important to us and what works for us. Both shopping personalities offer great advantages. Some people are perfectly happy being maximizers, while others swear by their satisficing tendencies. Others still, are a mix of both. They’re maximizers when it comes to certain areas in their lives and satisficers in other areas.

So, which type are you? If you’re unsure about which category you fall under, here’s a Maximizer vs Satisficer Quiz from Psychologist World. Me, I’m 65% a satisficer and 35% a maximizer. How about you?

Welcome, 2015! Ramblings on Writing, Recaps, and Resolutions.

 

One of the highlights of 2014: Boracay.
One of the highlights of 2014: August 2014 Boracay trip

The last couple of years, I wasn’t so much tested by fire as thrown into a furnace and tempered by flames. But soldiering on is second nature when there really is no other option in the horizon other than survival. Being a strong believer in metanoia and tabula rasa, both of which offer the sweet promise of a fresh start, I have decided that this year will be my year of writing, my year of focus and change.

I’ve taken a rather long sabbatical from writing—at least in the public domain. In the last few months, I’ve started a business with good friends, begun practicing my calligraphy, taken up crocheting (for the nth time), and started on my first novel.

For the novel, it’s a constantly evolving creature that recreates itself each time I take out the original file.

I have always believed that in writing, nothing is static; you can draft all the outlines you want, but the end result has more to do with how the work wants to be written. I hold on to the philosophy that writers are merely conduits shaping and delivering what already exists—if not in this realm, then in the world of ideas. But the execution is a pain. The story won’t stay still long enough for me to write it. The characters reject each other with startling regularity—so much so that I’m convinced there’s no other way but to write and write quickly, lest the idea makes its hasty exit as so many better ones have done before.

A few weeks ago, I welcomed my 29th birthday with a list of traits that I wished to improve on this coming year. I have always been a strong advocate for self-improvement but had often lacked the follow-through when it came to these changes. So this year, I will stick to my list and work on being more disciplined, dedicated, persistent, and patient. And while I will not bore anyone else with my lengthy list of goals and plans, I will be more present from this point on. Hopefully, that will be a good thing.

So, that said, let me end this lengthy rambling with my New Year’s wish for all of you. To borrow from Neil Gaiman:

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.”

Happy 2015, everyone! See you all soon!