This simple approach was first introduced in 1956 by Herbert Simon, an American multidisciplinary researcher and Nobel Prize Laureate in Economics. He used the term ‘satisfice’ – a portmanteau of ‘satisfy’ and ‘suffice’ – to suggest that instead of trying to maximise our benefits, we seek a merely ‘good enough’ result. Simon’s strategy relies on the assumption that we simply do not have the cognitive capacity to optimise complex decision-making. We cannot process the mass of information entailed in weighing all available options and probable outcomes – both on the social networks and off. Thus, the best move is ‘satisficing’ – choosing the first available option that meets our predetermined criteria, which is good enough.
Studies of Simon’s method have shown that people who insist on optimising decisions are ultimately less satisfied with their choices than those who made do with ‘good enough’. Other studies clarify why: the achievements of the former are actually lower than those of the latter, especially when the decision involved weighing possible outcomes. In a series of experiments led by the Swarthmore College social psychologist Barry Schwartz, participants filled out a self-assessment questionnaire determining their tendency to optimise decisions (based on their agreement with statements such as ‘I never settle for second best’ or ‘I often find it difficult to shop for gift for a friend’). Another questionnaire measured subjects’ propensity to feel regret; participants were then classified according to their answers on both questionnaires. The researchers found a negative correlation between the tendency to optimise and happiness, self-esteem and satisfaction, and a positive correlation between the same tendency and depression, perfectionism and regret. Another study in the series found that people who optimise also engage in more social comparison, and are adversely affected when they come up short.
Testimony to the method’s effectiveness abounds. In business, sacrificing maximisation in favour of a predefined ‘good enough’ is known to be the best strategy in the long run. As the saying goes, ‘Bulls make money, bears make money, pigs get slaughtered’: greediness that looks to maximise doesn’t pay. Business people also know to ‘leave something on the table’, especially in deals leading to long-term partnerships. Experienced capital market investors understand that aiming to ‘sell at the peak’ will ultimately be less profitable than selling once a satisfactory profit is gained. Corporate graveyards are full of companies that did not stop at a ‘good enough’, profitable product that they could easily market, surrendering instead to ambitious engineers with sophisticated specifications and unrealistic plans.
In his outstanding book Why the Allies Won (1995), the British historian Richard Overy analyses the outcomes of the Second World War, which were not, he claims, a given. One explanation he offers is the German army’s attempt to optimise use of its military munitions at the expense of tactical combat efficiency. At one point in the war, the Germans had no fewer than 425 different kinds of aircraft, 151 kinds of trucks, and 150 kinds of motorcycles. The price they paid for the technical superiority of German-made munitions was difficulty in mass-production, which was ultimately more important from a strategic point of view. In the decisive battles fought in Russia, one German force had to carry approximately one million spare parts for hundreds of types of armed carriers, trucks and motorcycles. The Russians, in contrast, used only two types of tanks, making for much simpler munitions maintenance during war. It was ‘good enough’ for them.
Even when it comes to emotional intimacy and love, ‘good enough’ works best. It was the British psychologist Donald Winnicott who gave us the concept of the ‘good-enough mother’ – a mother sufficiently attentive and adequately responsive to her baby’s basic needs. As the baby develops, the mother occasionally ‘fails’ to answer his needs, preparing him for a reality in which he will not always get exactly what he wants, whenever he wants it. The child learns to delay gratification, a key to any form of adult success. As we mature, we make do with ‘good enough’ partners almost by definition. Yes, out there is someone probably more suited to our needs – but we might not live long enough to find him or her.
Even if feeling that we are missing out is testament to our spirited drive for life, the way in which social networks now enhance our optimisation fallacy beyond all proportion is taking a serious toll on our quality of life. If you still doubt that ‘good enough’ is the best antidote to FoMO, the words of the American essayist and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson might strike the right chord: ‘For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.’
so at the grocery store, in the yogurt section; in business transactions; in making war…
oh yeah, and in the whatislove,
the lesson is to stop seeking Perfect. and look long and hard at the Good you’ve already got. driven by the possibility of missing out on that elusive “something else” will certainly end up with you missing out on the present and the present.
and this, personal words of wisdom, fished out of the inbox this morning; timely again —
to answer what you were asking, there is no distinctive “line” to guide you in deciding who to commit to. There are plenty of good people that would probably meet your criteria of what you are looking for in a guy, of course, no one will completely meet all the criteria, only Jesus is capable of that. You’ll always have those ‘what if’ thoughts and scenarios of possible other great matches (because there really are probably some great guys out there that would be a good match). But don’t focus so much on the what ifs or what you might be missing out on, focus on the present and what God has blessed you with.Being Christian is an essential criteria, but it shouldn’t be the only criteria. Everyone has a different standard, and is attracted to different personalities. Just because someone is Christian, doesn’t mean their personality will match yours. For example, one of the things that I really love about Jim-Bobis his sense of humor, we have developed a very weird humor together over the years. When you find someone who compliments your personality and brings out the best in you, then that’s a very good thing 🙂And if being with that person challenges you to grow spiritually, then you know that you are on the right track. (I want to be careful when I say, “challenges you to grow spiritually”, because you shouldn’t depend on another person to help you grow spiritually, but if being with that person helps, it’s definitely a good thing).And finally a couple of things helped me in realizing that I wanted to spend the rest of my life committed to one person: 1) that person is seeking Christ and expresses the desire to seek Christ together with me, 2) that person expresses the desire to make the same commitment to me, 3) we have mutual attraction, love & respect 4) that person doesn’t have serious flaws that I would consider ‘deal breakers’.
ez, right? 😛