This Is Not Your Last Supper

I used to spend a lot of time reading menus. My family didn't go out to eat much when I was growing up, and given what I earned during my early freelancing days, it wasn't much of an option then either. I thought of eating at restaurants as a treat, and so wanted to make the best possible decisions on my entrees, given that it might be months until I ate out again.
But about two years ago, I noticed that my life had changed. During a period of intense networking, I was going out to eat a lot. Yet I was still studying the menus during that time when I could have been focused on my lunch or dinner partners, spending needless minutes pondering if I really liked Caesar salad more than Cobb salad. So I made a conscious decision to become a "satisficer” rather than a "maximizer.”

Maximizers survey all available options until they find the best one. Satisficers, on the other hand, have certain criteria, and as soon as those criteria are met, they pull the trigger. Some research suggests that satisficers tend to be happier. They spend less time worrying about what might have been.

That sounds like a big win when the stakes are as low as choosing chicken or pasta. So I've started reminding myself that "this is not your last supper” and ordering any dish that looks good. Encouraged by the fact that I'm rarely disappointed in my meals, I've started carrying that approach over to other decisions. I could spend weeks hunting for the perfect interview subject... or go with someone who's got a good story. I'm trying to buy a car right now, and have decided to only look seriously at two popular models that meet my needs. There are a lot of cars out there, and otherwise I could be hunting forever. Who has time for that? Most cars work pretty well and get you where you need to go. Occasionally I find myself wondering if maybe I missed out on the perfect entree by not even bothering to look at the second page. But I definitely like simply glancing at the menu, then putting it aside and enjoying the real purpose of sharing a meal with another person.

How do you make decisions?

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Photo courtesy flickr user, fox_kiyo

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