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Maximizer vs. Satisficer

November 21, 2012

A while back I was reading an article in Men’s Health about a study of personality types in decision making that really resonated with me.  The article came down to the observation that there are two types of decision makers.  One type is called the ‘maximizer’.  This person puts much thought, resources, and effort into calculating the best possible decision.  The disadvantage to this personality type is the potential to obsess, waste time, and become overwhelmed.  The other type of person is the ‘satisficer’.  This person just goes with the first option that satisfies their need without toggling between the pros an cons.  The study concluded that the ‘satisficer’ often is happier than the ‘maximizer’ because the ‘maximizer’ often feels anxious or unsettled about their decision while the ‘satisficer’ has already moved on.

I would have to say for most of my life i’ve been a ‘maximizer’.  When a decision needs to be made my mind is buzzing through a thousand different options and scenarios.  It carried into my school work and my running.  I never felt like I knew everything for an exam so I studied right until the start of each test and never turned it in until the entire time was up.  Every time and every result of every race mattered.  I wanted to maximize to amount of time I ran, what pace I ran, and all the extras.  I felt like I had to push myself as hard as i could and dig deep during every workout.  But at the same time I over trained and found myself exhausted and constantly trying to squeeze to much into each day.  I was trying to do everything 100% to my ability.  It worked for a while but it catches up with you.

But now as I am getting older and wiser 😉 I’ve become more balanced.  I would say I am now more of a ‘satisficer’ with ‘maximizer’ tendencies.  The mental and physical stress of maximizing every workout is not to my advantage and I just risk burnout.  Instead of singling out workouts I try to look at the bigger picture.  I focus on being satisfied with my effort without stressing about if it was my maximum effort(and by maximum I mean running until I absolutely have nothing left and/or puking on the sidelines).  I learned that all the solid efforts add up and having insane workouts on a weekly basis is just dangerous.

But the ‘maximizer’ in me isn’t gone.  I let that side of me come out during key workouts and races and holding on to the daily grind.  I think it’s important for any serious runner to be a little neurotic 😉


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