Read some cool stuff the other day on a concept about how we view ourselves and how we deal with life.
This comes from the studies of Barry Schwartz. Schwartz said that we can look at every experience in one of two ways. One, we could try to maximize our pleasure out of each event. Two, we could simply take delight in what we accomplished based on meeting some standards.
The first way of doing things he characterizes you as a “maximizer”. Maximizing means you search out all of the best options, hoping to make a perfect choice. Or, in every event, you look at all of the options that could happen and are only happy if the “best” one happens. It is a form of perfectionism if taken to the extreme.
On the other hand, the second way he characterizes as “satisficing”. This means you pre-set some criteria and then accept the first option that meets that criteria. For example, you decide you want some dry white wine that is moderately priced for dinner. The first wine that comes along and meets that criteria you select.
We all probably do each of these in every part of our lives. As long as we don’t do either one to extremes, we are probably okay. If you are a maximizer on buying birthday cards, you might spend days and multiple trips to multiple stores searching for the “right” card. Definitely a waste of time at some point. On the other hand, if you are a satisficer on something like relationships, you might settle for the first person who meets your minimums. Again, perhaps not the right idea.
I had an experience the other day with “maximizing” that made me stop and think. I have not raced well in runs this year for reasons I do not understand. I just have not met the time goals I set for myself at the start of this year. Maybe it is age. Maybe it is training. I don’t really know. But I ran the Ghost and Goblins 5k on Tuesday and ran slower than I wanted. My mood afterwards was one of disappointment with my performance. I left the race right after finishing because I did not want to dwell on it any more. When I got home and Rosed asked me how it went, all I could say was “I am Mister Mediocrity”. I wanted to maximize the event. Instead, based on the way I have run all year, I should have realized my time goals needed to be lower (or non-existent). Maybe I should just be thankful I am able to run.
It is easy to look at yourself and say “I maximize too much” or I “satisfice too much”. But I think we all then say “that’s me” and don’t challenge ourselves to change. From the readings I looked at, satisficing is a way to more happiness in life. So why not try to change a bit?