Thursday, September 6, 2007

Satisficing is not always satisfying

Satisficing for those who are new to my lexicon is the practice where someone will pick the first available acceptable solution, rather than continue to search for an optimal one.

I for one, am going to try an minimize my tendencies to satisfice. Why? Two big reasons.

1) It enables sub-optimal offerings. I like goodness in my life. I like things that give me that warm fuzzy feeling when I interact with them knowing that I am ecstatic with the decision I made to engage in some way with a product, company or even a person. George Bernard Shaw said it very well - “All progress depends on the unreasonable man. The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself.” If you want something better in life, don't settle. Settling perpetuates mediocrity.

2) Staisficing can quickly become habit forming and be applied inappropriately in your life to areas where consequences can be monstrous. Satisficing on toothpaste is one thing. Satisficing on love is quite another. There is this big contradiction in American society, where movies, television and other forms of story telling mediums simultaneously relate that "true love" is this precious and joyous thing that can happen to anyone and that "true love" is a romanticized fantasy created by Hollywood. Most people buy into the second message because it is easier to believe and lets people be impatient and lazy (WHAT? Impatient and lazy Americans? How can such a thing be?). It also advances the thought process that "you really aren't worthy of true love". I personally believe that most Americans are pessimistic on their own intrinsic worth as people and put masks on in the form of consumerism, pride, vanity and braggadocio to hide their inner insecurities about themselves. It is my further hypotheses that since the social morays that dissuaded divorce for baby boomers and the greatest generation have been removed high divorce rates are mostly a result of people satisficing when it comes to finding a life partner.

In relation to this I have some new rules to live by for myself:

1) Don't satisfice on anything that you will have to live with for more than 6 months. Any longer than that and you will regret your involvement and your settling. Satisficing has it's place (e.g., toothpaste or when it is used as a tool to learn and understand what you really want) but as you get a keener sense of self awareness and knowledge, satisficing should proportionately decrease as a practice.

2) Don't give up on finding that "perfect" outcome. I use the term perfect a little loosely because perfection is defined by the beholder and it is very rarely what we think it is even for ourselves (i.e., we know what we want, we rarely know what we need).

3) Truly buy into the concept that if you have to ask yourself "Is this what I really want?" the answer is no. That epiphany moment where total clarity emerges is the true hallmark of something that will be lastingly meaningful and satisfying.

So my rating: Satisficing = Garbage.


Zaakir said...

I used to be a big time maximizer but lately I have learned to satisfice. I'm with you on the key being the ability to stratify decisions to maximize based on objective criteria.

For me it depends on my larger plans and how close to the terminal point of any individual part of those plans the results of the decision lie. If I'm writing a research article, clearly I'm not too worried about the word processor, but very concerned about fact-checking.

If the decision doesn't impact any big-picture initiatives, I'll satisfice away - obviously still analyzing value propositions and the like to make sure that it's worth doing at all.

- Rashid

Anonymous said...

Fish, you MISSPELLED the FIRST WORD of this post. What sort of SLACK OPERATION is this? For the love of God, get a spell-checker. Jeeeeeeez.

- Staylo