Tuesday, September 1, 2009

may the schwartz be good enough

berry infusion

Lately, I've been practicing my satisficing skills. What's that you say? Have I read yet another self-help book? Well, I don't know if it really falls under the umbrella of self-help ("science, society, and technology" according to the library), but I did just finish The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz (the urge to quote Spaceballs will eventually subside). It wasn't eye opening so much as eye bulging. Protuberating, if you will.

A little background information from the book: satisficers are people who have a set of criteria for a decision and once they have found something that meets those criteria, something "good enough," they stop looking, i.e. they don't worry about the possibility of something better. Maximizers (oh, the irony in this term), will continue information gathering until they've researched enough options to consider making the "best" choice.

Ding ding ding! Hello, and welcome to the first annual meeting of the maximizers. Who here spent over a month selecting their hotel accommodations? How long did it take you to get dressed this morning? And the mother of all questions, where in the world are you going to eat after the conference??

Now, I'm aware of my penchant for deliberation, but I was not cognizant of the cascade of negative emotions that accompany my prized thoroughness. Apparently, it's not productive to scour customer reviews for hours before buying the same ice cream maker that good friends of mine own and use constantly. Apparently, unearthing more choices is a recipe for experiencing loss, regret, and depression.

As Charrow can attest, I am a maximizer to the nth degree. She has had to watch me agonize over the trivialities of our everyday life for over 3 years now. I'm amazed she has the patience to weigh in anymore considering my neverending supply of rebuttals. We're talking life altering things like "where should I study this morning?" and "what should I have for a snack?" I've put off shopping for shoes that would help me get over the eternal foot plague because I knew that there were just too many options to choose from, and the moment I bought one of them, I would see something I'd rather have.* You can only imagine how well I deal with more important decisions.

This search for the best choice (there's that word again) is crippling and apparently far from advantageous. So I am practicing the real way to maximize choice: accepting that something is good enough and moving on to the next decision. For example, when I opened this blogger window, I had a minor palpitation at the prospect of deciding what to write about. Instead of stewing over what would be the most meaningful, or the most interesting, or fodder for the best picture (yet another decision that usually takes longer than necessary), I decided to discuss the book sitting right in front of me. And then, instead of staring off into space trying to conjure up a compelling hook, I took a stab at a shitty first draft.

And now, instead of rereading each paragraph and wondering if I could weave more anecdotes or one liners into this post, I'm going to consider it done.

*I finally bought non-converse shoes and my bobo foot is very grateful. The new shoes are causing a bit of an identity crisis considering how long I've worn chucks (pre-hipster, thank you very much), but I have to listen to the foot if I ever want to run again.

2 comments:

ester said...

Yay!!!

Steve said...

Wow, it's so awesome that you found Barry Schwartz's book! I actually wrote an article back when it first came out examining the issues around consumer choice.

http://www.tuscaloosanews.com/article/20040725/NEWS/407250348

It was one of my favorite stories from recent years!