We humans make thousands of decisions every day. Unlike our animal friends who rely primarily on instinct and don't have to think about things, we are faced with so many choices it can be daunting. The average grocery store now carries over 40,000 items compared to less than 9,000 in 1975. The next time you're in a store check out the cracker aisle and try to count the options. Remember when the morning decision was simply Cornflakes or Cheerios? Now there are now 11 different Cheerio flavors. Or what about toothpaste? It's like trying to figure out a complex taxonomy. First brand; then paste or gel: sensitive teeth and/or gums: enamel strengthening and/or whitening: peppermint, spearmint, or cinnamon.... There used to be a couple of brands of toothpaste but now each of those brands has 25 derivations and combinations. The choices are bewildering! More is not always better. Too much choice can lead to stress or even paralyze our decision making process.
Some people agonize over every decision; they gather copious amounts of information, analyze the pros and cons of each choice, and invest an inordinate amount of time and energy attempting to make the "right", "best", "perfect" decision. These people are called "maximizers" and often experience anxiety around decision making. They also have much more post decision regret. Would've, could've, should've kind of stuff. Even though they carefully charted the course, they keep checking the rear view mirror and wonder if they should have picked the other one. I once worked with a couple who were both chronic maximizers. They spent so much time in a state of indecision they never made it to a restaurant and finally ended up just eating a bowl of cereal (not sure if it was Cheerios) as bedtime approached. Maximizing can be paralyzing.
At the other end of the spectrum are the "satisficers" ( a combination of satisfied and suffice) who decide as soon as some basic criteria are met they select the first good option. They are happy with "good enough" and rarely regret their decision. They're actually happier in the long run because they weren't striving for perfection. They realize either choice is good and most choices aren't permanent.
Of course some decisions require maximizing, accumulating of lots of information and due deliberation. Major life changing decisions like having a child, buying a house, or end of life considerations certainly deserve time, energy and thoughtfulness. I joke with my three sons that I hope they're maximizers when it comes to picking my nursing home! But for most of life's daily decisions satisficing is a good practice to reduce stress.
Dwelling in a prolonged state of indecision saps precious life energy that could be better utilized realizing your dream and living your passion.
Some things to consider:
- Is the time and energy you invest in a particular decision relative to its importance?
- Is "good enough" good enough for most things?
- If you had extra energy from making decisions more easily, how would you spend it?