Are You a Maximizer or a Satisficer? The 2 Types of Decision Makers and How They Make Life Choices

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Whether you’re choosing what to order at a restaurant, where to go on vacation, or who to be with in life, making choices big and small can feel overwhelming—especially nearly two-and-a-half years into a pandemic when the variables of our world are constantly shifting.

But that suffocating anxiety that can surface when we're wondering how to make decisions may be more acute for some people than others based on what kind of a decision maker they are. Identifying what column you fall into can potentially make it easier to take the stress out of decision making going forward, which is the topic of this week’s episode of The Well+Good Podcast. In “Decisions, Decisions,” we talk about the concrete tools and techniques you can use to face down those forks in the road.

Listen to the full episode here.

Experts In This Article

To help us navigate the world of decision making, we spoke with psychologist Thea Gallagher, PsyD, and an actual decision coach, Nell Wulfhart. Gallagher and Wulfhart agree that a key element to making a decision is time. There is only so much good that ruminating on a choice does. At some point all that time spent chewing on a decision can make you more miserable than if you were just to decide by chance. And spending hours, days, or weeks dissecting pros and cons may allow relatively innocuous details to take on outsize importance in your mind, which could negatively impact your critical thinking.

This is the method of the Maximizer, or someone who “spend[s] a lot of time trying to make the best possible decision,” Gallagher explains. “They might do that in the end, but we know that they're not as happy and they're more stressed. And then they're thinking, is there another best possible decision?

On the other end of the spectrum, a Satisficer takes the opposite approach. Satisficers are “people who give themselves less time and make good enough decisions,” Gallagher says. “They might not be the perfect decision. But at the end of the day, they are happier and have more time in their life because they didn't spend so much time worrying and ruminating and living in the abstract space. They were actually making the decision and living their life.”

Do either of these descriptions ring a bell? It’s easy to see how Maximizers could want to take a leaf out the Satisficers’ book. That may sound impossible—how the heck are you supposed to just up and decide?! Luckily, Gallagher and Wulfhart have some tried-and-true methods that are surprisingly simple to help you de-stress the decision making process. Listen to this week’s podcast for more on all things decisions. You won’t regret it!

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