Finding Happiness By Settling

Finding HappinessChoice is a funny thing. Having autonomy is one of our basic shared human needs, and depriving people of choice certainly leads to unhappiness. On the flip side, too much choice is paralyzing, and can lead to regret and rumination if people feel they haven’t chosen correctly.

I recently came across an article in The Atlantic that framed the path to happiness as being ok with some choices being “good enough” rather than perfect. For many of us, this is a change in mindset that can be hard to adopt. However, if we can get ourselves to accept the idea that choices don’t have to be perfect to be good, we can reduce second-guessing and agonizing over options.

I loved the specific example Schwartz offered to Eric Barker as quoted in The Atlantic:

Whenever you need a new laptop, call up one of your maximizer friends and say, “What laptop did you buy?” And you buy that laptop. Is it going to be the perfect laptop for you? Probably not. Is it going to be a good enough laptop for you? Absolutely. It takes you five minutes to make a decision instead of five weeks and it’s a “good enough” decision.

When there are decisions to make that aren’t mission-critical, you can boost your own happiness by satisficing rather than agonizing over the perfect choice. You may even strengthen your relationships in the process (the maximizers in my life love sharing their insights into the “perfect” choices they’ve made).

Other examples of when satisficing might satisfice include:

  • Where to eat dinner (and believe me, I’ve agonized over this one)
  • Where to go on vacation (you’ll have fun on the second-best tropical island, too)
  • What to wear
  • What movie to watch or what book to read

You may want to take the time for major life decisions like where to work or live, but even there you will never have all of the information to make the absolutely perfect choice. And that’s ok, because the choice you make will be good enough.