While reading the Sunday Wall Street Journal yesterday, I was intrigued by a topic that came up in the Yoder and Son column. It referenced an article written by Prof. Barry Schwartz entitled “The Tyranny of Choice.”
The gist of the article is that most of us fall into a spectrum between maximizers (those who strive to make the best possible choice) and satisficers (those who aim for good enough, despite recognizing that better choices might exist). Interestingly, the article goes on to suggest that despite the extra worry and effort, maximizers tend to be less happy with their choices as exploring so many options leaves them with more opportunity for regret.
Without a doubt I am a satisficer. I never ponder options for long and usually go with my first choice – and I’m talking big ticket items here like houses, cars, career changes and husbands. Recently a Cheesecake Factory opened up nearby but I’ll never eat there – can’t stand the thought of all those menu choices.
Conversely my husband Nick is a classic maximizer. As you can imagine, we are not very compatible shoppers. My idea of purchasing a new household item, say a vacuum, involves looking at the Sunday ad inserts, choosing a store, going to said store, and pretty much walking out with a vacuum. I would be home and happily vacuuming (well, maybe not happily) before Nick had even finished comparing on-line reviews, let alone crafted a comparison spreadsheet with a price vs. quality matrix. And I agree with the premise that satisficers are generally happier with their decisions, as I rarely experience doubts, while Nick is a regular in the return line.
Nick's idea of the right way to begin a shopping trip.
Why then, when it comes to gardening, do I turn into a maximizer? I agonize for weeks or even months over a tree choice, and even so have still replaced several within the first year. Every time I come up with a particularly pleasing plant combination for a client, I immediately want to go home and rip something out to make room for what I am sure is a plant combo I will like better. Regardless of time spent planning and choosing, I can’t stop wondering if a better option exists.
So for all your armchair psychologists out there, I’m looking for your insight. Do you think it has something to do with the fact that I am a garden designer by trade? Or do all serious gardeners slip into maximizer mode when it comes to choosing plants? Certainly much of the population does not think this way, as I’ve gone on many garden consultations where someone has recently moved and wants to basically recreate their garden from the last house. Can you imagine? All those options, yet no qualms about sticking to the known.
Maximzer or Satisficer – which are you?