If the title “Good Enough” gave you a pang of anxiety, you are not alone. Perfectionistic behavior afflicts many professionals. You work on something tirelessly, concerned that it isn’t “perfect” yet. You may avoid starting on a project because you fear you won’t be able to do it exactly right. (Perfectionism can be the root of some types of procrastination.)
It turns out that “good enough” is better than perfect. In decision-making, there tend to be “maximizers” and “satisficers.” (Satisficer is a portmanteau of “satisfying” and “sufficing,” coined by Nobel Prize winner and economist Herbert A. Simon.)
Maximizers work at making decisions that will give them the most long-term benefit. Satisficers aim for a positive answer to “Does this decision best meet my needs?” While it may appear that maximizers make the best decisions, they also tend to evaluate their decisions more negatively than satisficers. Maximizers tend to start with higher salaries, but were less satisfied with their jobs than satisficers.Maximizers also reported more negative experiences through the job hunt process.
Maximizers want to look at all possible options, which is impossible to achieve. Logically, one will never fully know all the options to a decision. Maximizers face a fear of missing out on a better option. And that fear of missing out can lead to regret and anxiety.
Satisficers tend to be more satisfied with their decisions. If a better choice comes along, satisficers still feel good about the decision they made. Maximizers, when faced with a better option after making a choice, tend to beat themselves up and see themselves as poor decision-makers. They also tend to focus on what they missed out on when they made a decision.
For example, a satisficer and a maximizer are looking at cars. They both want cars with heated seats and a sunroof. Both the satisficer and the maximizer narrow their choices down to three cars. The satisficer looks over all the cars, does some research, and chooses the car that meets his needs — heated seats and a sunroof — and forgoes the cars that are above his budget or offer features he really doesn’t need. The maximizer looks at all three cars, does some research (usually more research than a satisficer — even too much research), and decides he’s going to go over his budget for one of the cars because it offers heated seats, a sunroof, and extra seats. He wants to make sure he gets the car with the extra seats because the other two cars don’t have them, and he may regret not having those extra seats. He wants to get the maximum benefit from his choice. However, most of the time only three family members maximum will be riding in his car. Later the maximizer dwells on his choice, feeling that he made the wrong decision — and regrets paying more for the car than he anticipated.
Maximizers face more stress when there are too many options to choose from. They also feel more comfortable when there are a limited number of options. Maximizers, paradoxically, may find some comfort in the saying, “You’ll always make the wrong choice.”
If you’re a maximizer, you may see the satisficer as “settling.” That is a risk of being a satisficer — making a decision before fully looking at other options. So what’s the best option? Tim Herrera of The New York Times has created the concept of the “Mostly Fine Decision,” or MFD. An MFD, according to Herrera, is “the minimum outcome you’re willing to accept for a decision.” It’s the outcome that you’d be okay with, even if it’s not the best possible choice.
For example, you are at the grocery store, looking at rows upon rows of cereals, deciding which one to take home. What are your minimum requirements? Let’s say you want cereal with low sugar and no dried fruit. That’s it. Anything at that threshold and above, and you’ve met your minimum criteria. You scan the aisle, find a cereal that meets those criteria, and off you go. You’re no longer spending fifteen minutes weighing all your options.
Let’s extend Herrera’s concept of MFD to the workplace. You are job hunting. Your minimum required outcome is a maximum commute of 30 minutes from home, a particular salary, and the ability to travel. You go to a series of interviews and find that one job meets your minimum required outcome. In fact, they are going to pay you more than your required salary. However, this job requires you to supervise a team of ten people, and you aren’t so sure about that. You’ve never led a team of over five people. However, you accept the job because it met your minimum required outcome. Yes, you experience a steep learning curve at your new job, but you are reasonably happy, especially with your shorter commute time. You made a decision in your best interest.
Try using the MFD concept in your next decision. You may find that you are more efficient in your decision-making, and you are more satisfied with the outcome.