Be a satisficer

You’ll feel less anxiety and regret about your decisions.

When it comes to decision-making, psychologists say people tend to fall into one of two camps: maximizers or satisficers.

“Maximizing describes a strategy whereby individuals faced with a number of choices try to find the absolute best option possible,” explains Andrew Ward, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. If you follow the satisficing model, you stop searching for better alternatives once you find one that’s above a certain acceptability threshold. In other words, you settle for the good-enough choice.

It’s not that satisficers have lower standards, notes Eric Bean, Ph.D., a board member of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology in San Diego. They just commit and enjoy their selection once they find one that meets their needs.

While maximizers are prone to anxiety, fear, unhappiness, and regret (after all, there’s always a hypothetical “better” option out there that they missed), satisficers tend to be happier, suggests Ward’s new research in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Adopting the habits below, typical of satisficers, can help you achieve your goals and happiness simultaneously.

Write two lists.
Maximizers consider every possibility, and “having too many attractive options makes it difficult to commit to any one,” says Shahram Heshmat, Ph.D., associate professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Springfield.

Imagine a triathlete searching for a new bike. The maximizer would take the hunt to the nth degree, watching demos, reading reviews, and scouring social media until they find the bike that has it all—which often doesn’t exist.

To tackle the task like a satisficer, write two lists before making a decision: one of all your must-haves, and one with the extras that are nice but not necessary, Bean says. Once you find the bike (or other product) that meets the requirements on the first list and ticks a few boxes on the second, choose and move forward.

Set quantifiable limits.
Maximizers like to make decisions after acquiring a wealth of knowledge about all the potential choices, whether they’re looking for a hotel or a new pair of shoes. But you only have so much time and brainpower.

Limiting the number of choices you’ll consider, sources you’ll seek out, and time you’ll spend on the search can minimize choice overload, Bean says. That’s a cognitive process in which having too many options makes decision-making overly complex and difficult. You might give yourself two hours to research hotels or ask your most trusted sources, like run group members, for their shoe recommendations.

Remove the freedom to change your mind.
If you tell someone they can’t change their mind after they make a decision, they’re more satisfied with their pick, according to research in the journal Social Psychology and Personality Science.

Commit to a coach, plan, or product for a set amount of time, whether it’s six weeks or six months. “Give the coach or the plan enough time to have the impact that it’s supposed to have,” Bean says. If you’re not seeing results when the time’s up, make a change. You’ll know you gave it a fair shot, and you’ll be happier for it.