Why “Good Enough” Is Great for Everyday Decisions
November 9, 2021
You’re standing in the toothpaste aisle at the store, paralyzed with indecision. Whitening or sensitive? Brand-name or generic? One tube or a two-pack? It’s a simple decision, but after repeating this process for each item on your list, you’re exhausted and still not even sure if you made the “best” choices.
Sound familiar? This common experience is the result of a decision-making strategy psychologists refer to as “maximizing.” It’s when you spend a lot of time comparing every available option each time you make a decision in an effort to get the best possible outcome.
In the moment, it can feel like you’re doing something great for yourself and your happiness. Who doesn’t want to make the best choice, even for small things like which toothpaste to buy? But the problem with maximizing is it can lead even the smallest of decisions to feel stressful and overwhelming. And that adds up: Research shows that people who always try to maximize are more prone to regret, and they’re less likely to feel happy, optimistic, and satisfied with life.
“Maximizing is not realistic. It’s not effective, and it’s often not helpful,” says psychologist Stephanie Rodriguez, Ph.D. “There are always going to be so many combinations of what could be, and we’re never going to pick the perfect one because there isn’t one.”
Thankfully, there’s another way. It’s called “satisficing.” This strategy is all about deciding what constitutes “good enough.” “Satisficing doesn’t mean going with the easiest option or just saying ‘whatever.’ It’s about going with your intuition, even if it’s not the ‘perfect’ decision,” Rodriguez says. This is good for you because ultimately it helps you make decisions faster, with less angst. This reduces stress overall, and improves your mood and energy levels.
Ready to try it?
Practice “satisficing” next time you shop.
Next time you need to shop, set some basic “good enough” parameters for the items on your list before you go to the store. For toothpaste that could be a certain price and a certain flavor. When you get to the toothpaste aisle, grab the first one you see that fits your needs. Do the same thing with each item on your list. On your way home, take a moment to reflect on your time spent and how you feel.
Not to spoil the outcome, but here’s what we bet you’ll discover: You’ll feel less exhausted, and when you go to use your toothpaste and the other purchases, you’ll notice they’re not just “good enough”—they’re just as good! Having fewer choices can actually be more satisfying in the end. And even if you don’t pick the “perfect” toothpaste, you’ve probably picked a good one—and you didn’t stress yourself in the process.
Now, practice “satisficing” with other decisions.
See if you can repeat your success in other areas of your life. First, think of other decisions you may be agonizing over. Ask yourself if any of these decisions will have an impact on you a year from now or five years from now. If not, “good enough” is likely the approach to take.
For decisions with higher-stakes, this will feel harder. Of course you don’t want to rush major life decisions. But even for larger concerns, see if you can let go of some of the demands of perfection. You may just find that the choice becomes obvious.
“People think they need to be perfect, and that if they make a wrong decision, it will mess up the rest of their life,” Dr. Rodriguez says. “If you can strive for good enough, that’s what’s going to promote your best well-being.”
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