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Are You a Maximizer or a Satisficer?

This article was written by in People. 5 comments.


This is a guest article by Aaron Pinkston, founder of Clarifinancial. He wasn’t satisfied with the ways people had to get life insurance quotes, so he created something better.

Have you ever noticed you can relax about decisions you made while others around you are still running around frantically? On the other hand, you probably have certain decision obsessions that seem to grab all your energy and focus.

Some people are maximizers and feel compelled to find the single best possible solution available (or find a new one). Other people are satisficers who are comfortable with decisions they make, as long as they are mostly confident the decision they make is reasonably good.

Many people seem to believe being a satisficer is better because they are happier and can make decisions more efficiently than maximizers. However, I believe there is a lot of value in being a maximizer. Like most things, you can probably have both attributes.

I know that I am a maximizer in some parts of my life but a satisficer in others. In fact, I can be more specific than that — I am only a maximizer in areas that matter to me.

Matrimonial mania

People love to give examples of weddings, so I’ll follow suit. When it came to my wedding, I was a satisficer. Both my wife and I thought it was a silly question when people asked what our “colors” were. I had no idea what that question even meant!

Secretly, I think my mom took it too far when she planted the garden with flowers in the color we were forced to choose. The only reason I let her do that was because she plants annuals, which are plants that die after just one year. She even considered the blooming cycles of different plants to maximize the color on our wedding date. But to her, this was an important decision that would help make the whole design more harmonious.

Come wedding day, we moved it inside because of the rain and everybody was happy.

Am I saying my wedding was unimportant to me? Sort of. But only because I maximized my decision for a life partner. Others seem to take the opposite approach.

Happiness and innovation

I agree with the research that shows satisficers are usually happier. I know I’m consistently happy when I don’t have to worry about something, and this includes many things in my life, like what I wear.

But I love a challenge. Sometimes, being exceptionally great just isn’t enough. It’s not until I have found the very best possible answer that I can experience true and lasting satisfaction. Satisficers might typically be happier, but if it weren’t for maximizers, the quality of our lives would stagnate.

Look at all the innovation around you. Better yet, since you’re reading this on a computer, stop to think about all the innovation at your finger tips. I’d be willing to bet that your computer and the network of computers that enable you to read these words wouldn’t rock so hard if folks were okay with the answer they already had. In fact, as good as it is, it’s not good enough for some. What will they create next?

Those people are maximizers in part of their life but are probably satisficers in other areas. We wouldn’t have knives if a chipped rock was good enough. Knives come in handy. I have a few in my kitchen. But I don’t need them to be the best.

Think about it. Are you a maximizer in some areas of your life and a satisficer in other areas? When are you content when others continue searching and when do you keep looking for better answers when others have moved on?

Updated January 20, 2012 and originally published April 3, 2010. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Aaron Pinkston is the founder of Clarifinancial. He wasn’t satisfied with the ways people had to get life insurance quotes, so he had to create something better. View all articles by .

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Financial Samurai

Based on your definition Aaron I’m definitely a satisficer! There is no one perfect solution.

Cheers, Sam

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avatar Aaron @ Clarifinancial

Sam, I would agree there is rarely a best solution, but that means there is often a better one than the one you have now. Do you ever find yourself always looking to improve in certain areas of your life? Something tennis-related maybe?

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avatar Sharon

I agree with the idea that I can be both maximizer and satisficer. Right now, I am a maximizer when it comes to my finances, and almost always been a satisficer about keeping my home clean. The dishes get washed the floors get cleaned, but all flat surfaces tend to become covered. The decks get cleared weekly. I am content with this, because I choose to use my energy in other ways.

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avatar Eric

I just talked to someone today about this topic (he had never heard of a “satisficer.”)

How coincidental :)

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avatar Ryan

This concept is all based on the book “the Paradox of Choice” by Barry Schwartz. I don’t think the writer of this article read more than the dust jacket summary.
-Satisficer is always the preferred way to go as maximizers are never really ‘satisfied’ with Thier decision. In Arron’s example of being a maximizer when it came to choosing a spouse (vrs Colours of wedding) he is wrong. A maximizer would have continued to second guess his choice of spouse and never been really happy with her, every time he met a new woman he would be thinking “would she be a better choice?” He actually “Satisficed” that decision (hopefully) just he had higher criteria.
- A “Satisficer” doesn’t just pick whatever and not care, they have a set of criteria and when those criteria are met they choose that and don’t look back. If it is a simple decision then there are less stringent criteria. In case of Colours it might be “must not clash with Colour of church hall where reception is” once picked it is done. In case of a life partner the stakes are very high and so the criteria is very high. There might be a list of 20 things that are important (intelligent, funny, attractive, religion, etc etc) then once you find someone that meets those criteria (or most of) you say heartily YES and never look back.
- in Arron’s examples of maximizers make stuff because they aren’t satisfied. May have some merrit as we maximizers are always looking for something better. BUT if they are not partnered with a Satisficer their great product may never get done and shipped! If Bill Gates was a maximizer never would have released windows because it still wasn’t perfect, meanwhile someone else would have released an inferior product and gotten in first. You can be a Satisficer with high standards for something and then when you can’t find something that fits you build your own. Then release it when it meets your basic criteria, then raise your criteria level and keep refining.
The maximizer will never be happy and/or proud of anything they do because there is always room for improvement.
I am pretty sure there is never a good time to be a maximizer. Let me know if there is.

Ryan
- a Maximizer and looking for the perfect solution for becoming a Satisficer…

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