Are You a Maximizer or a Satisficer?

Here’s a fun little quiz. Let’s say you need to buy a blender. You want one that will let you make soup in the winter and margaritas in the summer. What do you do? (If you don’t care about blenders, substitute “computer,” “car,” or any other significant purchase.)

||A|| Go to your nearest appliance store, and choose one that looks good.

||B|| Go to your nearest appliance store, ask the clerk for a recommendation, and buy the one he recommends.

||C|| Search Amazon for “blender for soup and margaritas”, read the 3 best and 3 worst reviews of the top 2 options, and buy the one that seems best.

||D|| Start by googling “blender for soup and margaritas,” and read several personal blogger reviews, before going over to Amazon and reading every single customer review for each blender that made the top blogger ratings, as well as some that didn’t. Check Consumer Reports ratings and compare. Visit five different local shops to talk to clerks about what they might recommend. Show them the highlighted spreadsheets you have made of each blender, its pros and cons, customer ratings, and price variations. Two months later, decide that none of the blenders out there are exactly what you want, and so you will just wait until they make the right one.

Are you concerned about getting the best possible blender? At the best possible price? That will have every function you want and a warrantee for life?

Or do you just get a blender?

If you chose C or D, you gravitate towards being a “maximizer” – someone who always wants to make the best possible decision.

If you chose A or B, you gravitate towards being a “satisficer” – someone who is content to make a satisfactory decision, even if it isn’t the best one possible. (Yes, the word does exist.)

Why is it helpful to know about ourselves along this particular maximizing <<–>> satisficing continuum?

Because throughout life, we are faced with a million decisions, from the very important to the very mundane. And in making those decisions, we have a limited amount of energy before decision fatigue leads us to decision paralysis.

The maximizers among us (*raises hand, sheepishly*) could perhaps be encouraged not to spend 25 hours researching the best possible deal on mundane household items like printer paper or light bulbs. Is it good to be frugal? Of course! But perhaps the research could be limited to only 2 hours, so the other 23 can be used for slightly more important tasks.

The satisficers among us might be encouraged to spend a little more time on the important decisions in life: perhaps before enrolling your child in the local school, it might be beneficial to meet the school leadership, talk with fellow parents, and possibly consider alternative options. Even if you still end up at that school, you’ll know the pros and cons, and have a sense of what you need to be prepared for.

Another benefit? Knowing that the other way of living exists.

When I was in my twenties, my aunt told me that she had walked into a car dealership and said, “I have $5,000 to spend and not a penny more. What can you offer me?” An hour later, she drove off the lot in a little red Ford and never looked back.

I was flabbergasted! I didn’t know that anyone could make such a significant purchase without months of detailed research, comparison shopping, and agonized deliberation. And yet, there she was, perfectly content.

On the other hand, any time my friend wants to buy a new blender, I’m her go-to girl. She doesn’t have the time, energy, or opportunity to sit down in front of a computer and comparison shop with her small children running around and her older kids needing chauffeuring to one activity or the other. Me? I get a lot of joy from finding her the best possible blender for her budget and needs!

There’s a lot of freedom in seeing the benefits of both, and being able to move up or down the contiuum as the situation requires.


What about you? Are you a maximizer or a satisficer? How do you adjust when the need arises?