Are you maximizer or satisfier in making choices?

A couple walked into a local store to buy a new vacuum cleaner to replace their ailing Bissell. They found a wide variety from low cost Hoover to high-dollar deluxe Shark models. They began reading about the different air filters, the WindTunnel, the no-filter versions, self-propelled, and even one called the Roomba that you could set to clean your floor each night while you slept!

The couple ended up leaving the store without a vacuum. The reason, too many choices and not knowing exactly the features you wanted before you started shopping.

Has this happened to you? Choice can have a positive impact on you or a negative one, but how you approach choice will decide on how it will impact you.

We live in a society where it is believed that when you work hard to become successful, you are rewarded with more choices. The more money you make the more styles and size of houses you can choose to live in. Similar instances of selection involve cars, boats, trucks, and high-definition televisions.

When people have no choice, life is thought to be miserable. As the number of choices we earn grows, so does our autonomy and control over our own lives, which is equated with increased happiness. But is there a limit to this “increased choice equals greater happiness?”

As the number of choices available to us keeps growing, some negative psychological processes emerge. They include: regret, raised expectations, missed opportunities, and feelings of inadequacy in comparison with others.

An individual’s method to how they approach choosing places them in one of two categories: maximizers or the satisfiers.

Maximizers only seek “the best” choice of product or services. They look for the best product or the “perfect choice.” Studies show maximizers land jobs paying 20 percent higher salaries than satisfiers. Maximizers are thought of as perfectionists, but it comes at a cost. They are thought to be more pessimistic, anxious, stressed, tired, depressed and often regret their choices were not good enough in comparison to satisfiers.

Satisfiers on the other hand settle for something good enough and don’t worry if there is something better out there. They are content with “excellent” rather than pursuing the “best.”

Satisfiers are less stressed and feel better about their choices, rarely experiencing the degree of regret or buyer’s remorse that maximizers undergo. So what is a satisfier’s secret to choosing?

Satisfiers reflect on what is important in their choice. The couple should have considered what features they wanted in a vacuum cleaner before shopping. Once you choose, make your decisions final. Don’t continue to compare your choices you could have made. This is a fast track to buyer’s remorse which is feeling bad about your decision because there exists something better. Be grateful for the positive features of your choice instead of dwelling on the negative aspects. Remember, “He who dies with the most toys wins” is a bumper sticker and not considered wisdom.

We are often caught up in “owning the best” or “paying the least.” The result: increasing rate of depression in our society, though we have more choices available to us than our parents. Approaching choice as a satisfier, rather than a maximizer will lead to happiness, satisfaction, and a positive outlook on your choice — in the end, a satisfied couple leaving the store with the vacuum they needed.

Steve Patchin is the director of Career Services at Michigan Technological University.

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