When I’m on the hunt for a gift, recipe, or really any purchase, I often preface my Google search with the word “best.” The proof is in my most recent search history:
Best sprinkler for toddlers.
Best pillow for side sleepers.
Best outdoor bug repellant.
As it turns out, there are infinite “bests” out there because “best” is often subjective. These exhaustive searches leave me overwhelmed and under impressed by my options. When I receive the item I finally purchased, it often falls short of its superlative claims.
I listened to a Hidden Brain podcast awhile back that referred to the idea of “maximizing vs. satisficing” as strategies for decision-making.
Maximizing is defined as making the best choice out of all possible alternatives.
Satisficing – a portmanteau of the words satisfy and suffice – is making a choice that simply meets all of your standards.
Satisficers turn out to be happier with their choices.
This resonated with me because I often charge towards decision-making in a mind-frame of finding perfection. Many of my searches end in frustration, especially when it comes to parenting. It all started when we scrolled through every page of a baby name website before our son was even born. Yep, every name.
The result? The plethora of choices sponged the fun right out of the process and left us decision-paralyzed.
And that’s just the beginning of the spiral. Best way to get a baby to sleep through the night? Best car seat? Best bottle? Best teething remedy? Best way to discipline? Best preschool?
What if I get it wrong? Is anything but the “best” inherently wrong?
I used to think so. I’m a maximizer, but I’m working on changing that. This summer, I searched for the “best” spot for a family vacation. I researched, crowdsourced, and scrolled through the vacation photos of my friends who seemed to find the idyllic spot. But nothing seemed to fit our family perfectly.
As a result, we were literally going nowhere.
My husband – the satisficer – searched for a few minutes one day and found a lake house for rent, just an hour away. I had never heard of the lake, but the house met our specs and got good reviews, so we booked it.
And guess what. The quaint cottage, quiet lake, kayak rides, and fishing off the backyard dock – it was just what we needed.
We found joy and peace in the simplicity of this place. It was enough.
I hope to model satisficing to my kids. I want them to make choices with confidence when they base their decision on standards that align with what’s important to them. I don’t want them to waste any time or joy on nitpicking their way to a marginally better decision.
We want the best of everything, but the best is relative and it’s not for everyone. It’s what’s best for you, your family or someone else. With so many “bests” out there, the term’s fundamental meaning is diluted.
best advice to my fellow maximizers is to figure out what will satisfy and suffice, limit your choices, and move forward in confidence, without the “what-ifs” and “or-you-coulds.”
You may just find joy and freedom in banishing the “best.”