“Every positive change in life begins with a clear unequivocal decision that you are going to either do something or stop doing something” ~ Unknown
You see all the time that a few people seem to make important decisions pretty fast as compared to most people who take ages to make even a routine decision.
Why is it so?
Why do these people have different aptitudes to decision making? What is the key factor that drives their decisions?
There is one very important element that affects decision making efficiency.
Barry Schwartz, an American psychologist and author of The Paradox of Choice, states that one of the most important elements that govern the decision making approach of different people is the end objective.
Behind every decision of a decision maker, there is some purpose or objective.
Depending upon the end objective desired from any particular decision, there are 4 major categories of decision makers. Let’s understand each of these; then you may ask what you think about yourself.
The Maximizer is the person whose end objective is always to look out and opt for the best alternative. Therefore, first he takes enough time to find as many alternatives as possible before making a decision. Although this type of people know they have made the best choice after thorough analysis, still if they come across something better, they again start to think about getting the next best solution. They always want to maximize the benefit.
Let’s understand this type with the help of an example. For example, you have already purchased a pretty decent outfit to attend a party in town from one of the best shops. But as you purchased it and moved to the next store, you see a different outfit — much better than what you just bought. As you have found the next best alternative now, you start feeling bad about your previous decision despite the fact that that the previous alternative met your requirements, until you saw the new one.
This is an example of the Maximizer — who tasks himself with making the most informed and intelligent decisions after exploring the best possible alternatives.
If you seek and accept only the best, you are a Maximizer. Maximizers need assurance that every purchase or decision they make is the best possible.
The next type of decision maker is the Satisficer. The concept of “satisficing” was proposed by U.S. Nobel Prize winning economist, Herbert A. Simon, by combining the two words “satisfying” and “sufficing”.
Satisficers are people with a specific criteria or parameters to be fulfilled for making decisions. Of course, they choose their parameters, which require exploring the best available alternatives, but unlike Maximizers, they set a standard, which if met, they will make the decision. Once Satisficers get a thing or make a decision based on their own set of standards, they are happy with that decision; and if some next best alternative pops up, they will not get dissatisfied, unlike the Maximizers.
For example, if you want to buy a car and you have certain important standards you want to see in the car, now you’ll start exploring and compiling various available alternatives. Suppose you have a preference for safety and space in the vehicle as compared to design. Once you find a vehicle that addresses your standards of safety and space, you make your decision to buy that particular vehicle and don’t bother about other options that might come up, which might be better than your previous decision — because your choice meets your given standards.
Therefore, a Satisficer settles for something that is good enough and doesn’t worry about the possibility that something better may come up later. To put it simply, a Satisficer keeps on finding an alternative based on his or her set of standards; and the moment it is found, they stop searching further.
That doesn’t mean that Satisficers settle for low standards; their criteria can be very high; but as soon as they find the right alternatives be it a house, car, or food with the qualities they want, they’re satisfied.
Let’s now look at this third category of decision makers — the Perfectionist. These are the people who keep on exploring their options until they find the perfect one. They think that their decisions need to be flawless, which no one will question, and, therefore, until they reach this level, they keep on exploring the alternatives.
The Perfectionist likes to achieve the best, like the Maximizer. But there is a key difference. While both have a high standard of performance they want to achieve, Perfectionists have very high standards that they don’t expect to meet. By contrast, Maximizers have very high standards and they expect to meetthem.
Therefore, it happens that Perfectionists may not be as happy with the results of their actions as Satisficers, while they seem to be happier with the results of their actions compared to Maximizers.
John wooden, an American basketball coach, once said that perfection is what you’re striving for, but perfection is impossibility. However, striving for perfection is not impossibility. Therefore, he advised to do the best you can under the conditions that exist: that is what counts.
Now comes the last category of decision makers — Optimalists. An Optimalist is someone who is mindful of and deals with the constraints of reality. They know that nothing will ever be perfect, so they are kind of ambitious Satisficers.
In a sense, the Optimalist is not satisfied with good enough; they are ambitious; they want more. On the other hand, they are not maniac Maximizers. They are somewhat in between of Maximizers and Satisficers.
a Maximizer will never be happy, because the moment he sees something better than what he has chosen, he will start regretting his past decisions. No matter how good something is, if a Maximizer discovers something better, he will always regret having failed to choose it in the first place. Maximizers are prone to experience a sense of “buyer’s remorse” following any purchase decision.
To avoid the kind of regret the Maximizer faces, perfection is comparatively a better approach, because Perfectionists know they have standards they don’t expect to meet. But, unfortunately, perfection is not achievable — the journey to perfection is endless, exhaustive, and paralysing in the constant consideration of multiple alternatives. So the Perfectionist is not happy with their decisions, but they are still better than Maximizers. You can’t achieve perfection; you can only strive for perfection and thus keep on improving.
But as compared to Maximizers and Perfectionists, Satisficers’ stakes are not that high. Therefore, the possibility of regret in the case of the Satisficer is much less, almost negligible; for them perfection is unnecessary.
The last category of Optimalist is something everyone should strive to achieve because an Optimalist is really considerate of the hard core realities of what is achievable and what is not, what is controllable and what is not. He knows that things can’t be perfect, so he chooses to strive for perfection; but he won’t face regret like Maximizers.
What Decision Maker Should You Strive to Become?
I hope the above categorization of decision makers will give you enough reference points to analyze your own behaviors and actions, and to find out which category you fall in. As for any treatment, you must first make the right diagnosis before accepting a prescription. You should check your own patterns and analyze what end objectives you want to meet when facing a decision problem. This distinction between the four categories of decision makers will help you fine-tune your approach and thus improve the quality and pace of your decision making.
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