I doubt a hard-core maximizer could turn herself into a blissed-out satisficer overnight, even if she wanted to. But tempering our desire to make the “best” choice could help us make decisions faster and with less angst.
UNDERSTAND THE WHY
Archuleta suggests asking ourselves why we think we need to make perfect choices. Maybe a previous purchase went horribly wrong — we bought a car that turned out to be a lemon, for example, and couldn’t afford to replace it. Perhaps we were cheated or defrauded, which left us unwilling to trust and convinced we can’t rely on anyone’s help. Or maybe we think we aren’t allowed to make mistakes, lest we be seen as the imperfect humans we are.
Exposure therapy might help as well, Archuleta says. This technique encourages gradually facing our fears and anxieties, rather than avoiding them. If you tend to obsessively research even small purchases, buy a $10 or $20 item without researching it at all, she suggests. Notice how that feels, and then do it again a few times. Your anxiety about not vetting multiple options likely will fade as you do so, she says.
CREATE A FRAMEWORK
Take a page from satisficers and focus on your goal, rather than on all the available options. It may help to write down your top two or three priorities. Let’s say you want to refinance your mortgage. Your priorities might be to get a competitive rate (not the lowest, perhaps, but certainly not the highest) and to lower your monthly payment enough to recoup the costs within a year. You shop around just enough to find a loan that meets those criteria, and then apply.
Finding a few, trustworthy resources can give you reassurance that you’re making a good choice, even if it’s not the absolute best one. Personal finance sites might offer reviews of your lender, for example. If you’re buying a product, you can consult a solid review site such as Consumer Reports, Good Housekeeping or CNET.
FOCUS ON WHAT MATTERS
When I fall down the rabbit hole of endless research, I can often stop myself just by asking, “How important is this, really?” My life won’t be significantly worse if my hiking socks wear thin too fast. Other decisions, such as buying a house or a car or hiring a financial planner, deserve more — but not endless — consideration.
If buyer’s remorse starts to creep in once you’ve committed, Archuleta recommends reality-testing your thinking: Would your life really be vastly better if you’d chosen something else? Then she suggests resolutely turning your mind to positive aspects of your choice.
“Focus on all of the things that are good about making this decision,” Archuleta suggests. “And focus only on those things.”