Thursday, October 15, 2009

An Enlightening Weekend, Part One

Okay, so I know that it's Thursday and we're on the verge of another weekend, and I'm just getting around to writing about last weekend. Better late than never. Mamma mia, that seems to be my life's motto lately. What can I say? I'm working on it.

Anyway, Jason and I had a rather enlightening weekend. Three unrelated things came up in random fashion that each shone a light on who we are and how we work. [I was going to write about all three in this post but since I'm sort of obsessed interested in self-awareness and -improvement, once I got going it ended up being longer than I thought, so I'm going to break it into two or three posts.]

First, I was thumbing through an old issue of Real Simple magazine [side note: in my mind I always think "an old episode" and have to correct myself--a sure sign I need to read more magazines and watch less TV] from last October. In an article titled "10 Ways to Be Happier," Gretchen Rubin explains two types of decision makers: Satisficers and Maximizers. Satisficers (yes, satisficer--a combo of the words satisfy and suffice) make a decision once their criteria has been met. When they find a hotel or blender or restaurant that is good enough (however they define that for each decision), they're satisfied and make the decision without looking back. Maximizers, on the other hand, want to make the best possible decision. They can't feel satisfied making a decision until they've researched all the available options and determined which is the very best (or best deal). Afterward they are less likely to be satisfied and more likely to be anxious about their decisions, for fear that they didn't have all the available information. Obviously this takes more time and effort and is less rewarding to boot! Double whammy!

Although this comparison/explanation was only a paragraph long, it hit me right upside the head and I felt that there was a reason I'd saved this particular old magazine. Jason is a Satisficer, and me? I am soooooo a Maximizer. I'm a maximum Maximizer. I've wanted a new camera, a new vacuum cleaner, and a new mattress for over a year now, but haven't done anything about it because I haven't made the time to sit down and explore ALL the available options. In case you're a Satisficer (lucky you!) and have no idea what I mean by ALL available options, allow me to give you an idea of what my research process would entail, for say, buying a new camera. First, I'd figure out which cameras were available in my general price range and make a list of all of them. Given those, I'd check with known product test sites (like Digital Photography Review) to get the reviews on each of them. I'd check out reviews on Amazon, B&H, etc., and I'd Google reviews to see what other reviews were out there. I'd ask all of my friends which cameras they use and whether or not they like them, and of course I'd put greater emphasis on the opinions of those whose photography I admire. I'd check Flickr to see which cameras took which photos. I'd drive to camera stores and look at the front-running cameras, hold them in my hands to see how they felt. I'd search for the very best price of all the front-running cameras. I'd check to see if there were any deals or rebates available. I'd research the different body & lens packages to see which was the best deal for what I wanted. I'd probably have to research lenses, too. And it goes without saying I'd have this all compiled in an Excel spreadsheet. Obviously.

Do you see why I haven't even started looking yet?

I know, I know, it's insane. And reading that paragraph in the magazine made me see, for the first time ever, just how insane it all is. Of course I don't do this type of thing for every purchase; I might read the labels on a few different pasta sauces before I buy one (we avoid high-fructose corn syrup), but I don't Google pasta sauce reviews or anything. :) And actually, pasta sauce is a bad example because I make my own, but that's one of the examples she uses in the article so there you go. :) Anyway, it's usually just the high-priced purchases that turn me into Mrs. Maximus Maximizer. Growing up, every dollar counted and a bad financial decision could be felt acutely; I don't know if that contributed to my Maximizer-ness or if I would have been like this anyway, but it certainly helped me to feel justified in my decision-making process.

Now that I know I'm a Maximizer, I can see all the ways it's affected our lives. I don't like planning trips, because the research that goes into booking airfare, finding hotels, choosing a rental car, etc, becomes completely overwhelming to me. So Jason usually ends up doing it, and you know what's funny? I always make the best of any situation, even when he books hotel rooms in parts of town that make people say, "Seriously? You're staying there? Be careful!" I can't remember ever being mad at him for making a bad or questionable decision about travel plans. Why do I hold myself to (impossibly) higher standards?

And it's not just spending money that I Maximize, it's making it, too. I have a ton of Polish pottery that I got while we were in Europe, and I haven't sold any of it--even though there is a big pile that I want to sell--because I don't know the best way to go about it. I know it would go for more money on eBay than on Craigslist, but then there's the hassle of packing and shipping and potential breakage. And then if I sell it on eBay, there are a ton of different options--do I do a Buy It Now or not, how many days should I set it for, etc, etc, etc. This past weekend Costco had an outside vendor selling it, and I checked out the prices; it made me want to have a Polish pottery show & sale at my house, but how would I advertise it, and how would I make sure that no creepy people showed up? The same goes for stacks of books I don't want anymore, Birkenstocks I bought on eBay and never wore (I went on a Birkenstock-buying binge one summer when Jason was gone for training, whoops!), skeins and skeins of yarn I bought in Europe when I was learning to crochet.... So there it all sits, taking up space and equaling zero dollars in my wallet.

Also, our house isn't even close to the way I'd like it to be, and I think now I know why. I'm afraid to make a decision unless I can be sure it's the perfect decision; the best place for each thing to go, the best way for things to be organized, the best piece(s) of furniture to buy, the best paint colors, flooring choices, and on and on and on. Being a Maximizer has paralyzed me and it stresses me out to live in a house that's not done. I have so much guilt about it and I hate for anyone to come in the house. I'm embarrassed and angry at myself.

It all seems so obvious and pathetic now. But the good news is that we can change our decision-making habits! Now that I know I'm a Maximizer I can choose my decision-making process. So I'm going to focus on balance, and trying to see when more research is really needed and when good enough is good enough. Jason's going to help me when I get stuck. I'm going to work on the house, remembering that DUH, everything can be moved around, walls can be repainted, furniture can be moved or sold on Craigslist or torched in the back yard, for that matter, which Jason would loooove. I'm going to be satisfied and things will suffice!

Which are you, a Satisficer or a Maximizer? I'd love to hear about it! :)


Arleen Bothwell said...

We are all of us living in the gutter, but some of us are looking to the stars - Oscar Wilde

God bless you for it; we wouldn't have the Sistine Chapel without mindsets like that.

I'm in the middle about most except buying a camera and food labels!

Not to be off topic - why is high fructose corn syrup so bad in pasta sauce? I heard it burns slower because it's fruit sugar.

Skip's Girl said...

sigh...Maximizer...and I was so about to do the exact same drama for a decent-not-cheap-but-not-professional-camera too, maybe I'll bring out a little sufficer and just buy the new version of the Fuji I loved and call it good. Right after I search for the best price online ;)

Cameron said...

Arleen, here are a couple of links that detail some of our issues with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS):

The "Health Effects" section here:

And I don't have a source for it, but after living in Italy for three years, I can tell you that there IS a difference between HFCS and sugar.... In Europe (and actually most of the world besides the US) Coca-Cola is still made with sugar. Have a small glass (like a small juice glass) of real-sugar Coke and you will feel satisfied. But here in America where Coke is made with HFCS, check out the size of those Big Gulps! You could never drink that much of real sugar Coke. So either HFCS suppresses the body's ability to feel satisfied, or the body doesn't recognize HFCS as food so satiation is never attained. Either way, you can consume MANY times more calories via HFCS than you can through sugar. I don't think that the rise in obesity in America coinciding with America's increased use of HFCS is a coincidence! :)

But I could just be a crazy hippy. ;)

cynthia said...

This is so interesting!!!!!!!!! Thank you for sharing. I am gonna have to think about this.... one thing I do know in this very moment is true- I am a procrastinizer:) for sure!

Wisconsin Girl said...

Maximizer for sure and Ed is the Satisficer. Although you sound much more tolerant of his decisions than I am of Ed's. I think too much about everything and Ed just goes with the flow, no matter what happens. That's why I think we make a good combo. I make him think a little and he helps me not to think so much! Good article and info. Thanks for sharing! And diddo on the HFCS and GMO's and so many other scary ingredients that are put in our foods. Italy did a lot of things for us didn't it!?!?!

Ingrid said...

I am so a satisficer, and generally it serves me well. Every now and then, I make a very foolish purchase or a very foolish decision. If no one is around to point out what a poor choice it was, I am fine (at least it is done is what I figure), but if anyone sees it, I feel embarrassed..... not because I wanted to do it differently, but because I don't want any one to think I am stupid.
I want to appear to be thoughtful about choices and purchases, but really I am just eager to accomplish whatever task is in front of me. Whatever turns out is usually okay with me. That being said, I hate our sofa as it really did fade like my sister said it would and the orange paint in Clementine's room is ugly. Hmmmm!

Ava's Mom said...

I am completely a Satisficer... I am all about getting things done, even when they aren't perfect. In most cases this is a good thing, but there have been times when I was so focused on getting the decision made and moving on that I missed details that would have made a difference. How do we change? Seems pretty etched in our personalities?

interesting chat about HFCS! I am sooooo on board with that. We put so much crap and processed junk in our food in the US. Just ridiculous.

ang said...

Let me help you with your pottery.

1) Take pics of it.
2) Send them to me.
3) I tell you what I like.
4) You tell me what you want for it.
5) I buy it.
6) We sort out shipping at some point in the next 50 years.


kellie said...

Here's a HUGE surprise for you... NOT. I'm just like you! A maximizer!! Ha, ha. Isn't it nice when we find explanations of why we are the way we are?

I think I read that article, thanks for reminding me about it. I'll have to recruit Alex to help me like how you're having J help you :)