Happiness from a few rules
Barry Schwartz’s 2004 paper, “The Tyranny of Choice,” we learn that people are most satisfied when choice increases from zero to one. Satisfaction then tends to increase proportionately to the number of options. However, he cautions, only to a point. When there are too many choices, satisfaction drops precipitously. In brief, enough choice is good—too much choice is bad.
His research divides people into two groups: maximizers and satisficers (satisfice is a portmanteau of satisfy + suffice). According to Schwartz, when looking to buy a new car, maximizers would have to see every car option available on the market before they could make a decision. Satisficers, on the other hand, define minimum criteria for choice; for example, they have $16,000 to spend on a two-door coupe. When they find the first car that meets those specifications, they simply buy it.
The research (backed up by personal observation) clearly shows that satisficers are generally happier people.
-Gabe Zichermann, Gamification by Design
Rules. Funny creatures.
We seem to hate rules.
I've been working for my own startup for almost 6.5 years now. I have many fewer rules than folks who have to work for other companies as you can probably imagine.
But I wonder if some of the struggles I bump into are simply because I don't have enough rules in place.
For example, this car thing above is similar to something my wife and I are going through. We could use a new car. Our current mode of transportation is showing it's wear. It also has been awful in the snow. And the dog hates it. She's too big for the back seat, and abhors the flipped down position thing that exposes the trunk. How can we deny her?
So we have a car in mind, we have for years, as a replacement to what we have now. But you know what we did? We kept coming up with new features we could consider. Before we had an easy decision. Now it's: “oh but this other car has those cool blind spot indicators”. Something that could be a fun purchase, has become a lot more agonizing.
I can't help feel this type of thing keeps recurring in my life too.
When I started my first company, there were some basic rules I had in my mind it could follow. Those rules were compromised over and over, and many thrown out entirely. Not without reason of course, and things have definitely turned out pretty good.
But of course with bouts with agony.
I always wonder about the road not taken. What if I had just stuck to those simple rules. Those ideals. No compromise. Don't let new options enter into the decision. Would decisions have turned out pretty damn well still without the accompanying agony?
I've got another situation I face right now. In my head I've created a couple simple rules about the decision. But still some lingering threads of thought are asking what ifs about all the other variables that COULD BE added, making my couple simple rules useless. Bringing me back to a bit of an agonizing decision.
Something tells me I need to stop maximizing and stick to the rules I created in the first place. It'll buy me a more brain space to make a ton of the other decisions I'll continue to face.
Also seems like it'll cut out a ton of agony.