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.
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.