Monday, November 3, 2008

So Much to Think About

Once upon a time when we were young and there were such things as mix tapes instead of playlists, my husband made one called "Too MUCH Perspective," based on a line from something I don't remember now. I do remember that "Sometimes I Think Too Much" was on there--both of them. (Proving his point, on one of his albums, Paul Simon has not one but two songs by that name.) I've been thinking about that a lot lately.

In some periodical or on someone's blog lately (was it yours? I'll link to it) someone wrote about optimizers and satisficers. These are ways some social scientist describes how people make decisions. Optimizers pore over every detail, examining every angle, trying to figure out the absolute best way to do something. Satisficers gather some information, but much less, and then trust their guts to figure out which option to take.

It may not surprise you to learn that satisficers, in general, lead much happier lives.

It didn't surprise me a bit, as an almost pathological optimizer. I love to find the Best Way to do anything. My compulsive recycling is one symptom. I'm on edge that I haven't googled the quotes and CDs in the first paragraph to add the links to the exact sources. My desperate attempts to plan menus for the week of different things my family loves instead of doing what most of my (much happier, I think) friends do, which is to plan to just have tacos, or baked potatoes, or pasta, or whatever, at least once a week so there is no issue for their family and everyone will look forward to and know they'll enjoy dinner on that evening. I'm not at all capable of "winging it" in a recipe. My efforts to figure out how to trip chain have been known to take me so long that I never actually get out on my errands as I try to figure out the Very Best Way to link things together. And by the time I gather the stuff that needs to be mailed at the post office next to the picture place and the things that need to be returned to the store in the mall and change the kids in to different clothes for the pictures since by this time they have gotten the first ones messy...well, we don't end up going anywhere. And I so can't stand that I didn't link to the blog post in the paragraph above that I had to google it and put it here. See what I mean?

In the great Venn Diagram of life, the Optimizers and the Perfectionists, I suspect, have great crossover. And my perfectionism picks funny places to come out. So as I approach 40, and think about how I used to laugh about people Not Getting Older but Getting More So, this is one of the things I would like to change about myself. My children have already picked up plenty of my bad habits, from shredding fingernails to grinding teeth. This is something I want to not pass on. I tried hard to remember this as I shopped for a TV for the World Series. (Um...Worth It.) Even with the meta-analysis, it was hard not to obsess over what Consumer Reports said, versus what this big box or that big box sold, and were the the same number, and did they have 1080 dpi, and was installation included, and how soon, and could we hang it on the wall and could I see it from the kitchen and was it the right size? And it amazed me we ever bought a house.

At some point, I just took a deep breath, got out the AmEx, and Bought A TV. Was it exactly what I wanted? Yes and no. Yes--it was one of the two sizes we decided, 1080 dpi, which I realized I really could see the difference on, since it was over a price threshold there was a free in-home setup, and on sale. No--I liked the political statement of the smaller TV but went bigger anyway; it wasn't an exact match to the CR highest rated, and it doesn't have the little SD card slot.

But you know what? T loves it, the World Series was gorgeous, and I am happier now that the decision is done. And I need more practice in this since Optimizer self-doubts plague me about almost everything else I do or buy. So while "good enough" is rarely good enough...maybe I have some more room in my life for the good enough.

And one more piece of comfort: I'm not alone. In a classic Optimizer move, I found an old email linking to this article from the New York Times on how people can't stand to let options go, even if they know they have better ones available. And I'd better publish this before I try to Optimize again!


brandy101 said...

Ha, I am one of the pasta/tacos one night a week in my *plan*! LOL

I was laughing about *the political statement of the smaller tv*!!!! I am there - resited offer of hubby to get a wall-mounted flat-screen when we redecorated the living room. Instead I managed to find a $14.99 table and put my 19inch tube tv plus the dvd player (held to the bottom of the table my magnets) on there. I love my tiny tv. Buit, yeah, if you have a sports lover in the house, it is a worthwhile *investment* - cheaper than season tickets!

Domestic Goddess said...

See, I'm not an Optimizer. I'm a "read some, it's good enough" kind of person and quite frankly, although I complain I'm really satisfied with anything.

Why is it they pick up the worst habits instead of the best? They leave their shoes in the middle of the floor, just like their dad, and they procrastinate, just like their mom.

Kathleen said...

"Too Much Perspective" is from Spinal Tap.

I'm a satisfice, BTW.

Nice job getting a good TV for the series -- and congratulations!

MemeGRL said...

Brandy--since the last TV we got was a teeny one for our wedding in 1995, and the "big" TV was the one I watched the MOVE events happen on, it was time. (And it was broken, or it would have still not been time!) And our room isn't all that big, and I didn't want to feel like I was in a movie theater, or to send the message that this was clearly THE most important thing in the room. But it was SO worth it for the Series.
DG--give me lessons. And I'm with you on the habits!
Kathleen--thanks for the reference. Still can't believe I didn't remember that myself. And thanks for the congrats. It was a really fun week around here and we're still really excited.