In search of brunch
Last year, I went on honeymoon to New York. Whilst I loved the city, I drove myself to distraction trying to find the very best of everything. The coolest and most delicious restaurants. The most Instagrammable spots. The funnest activities. Everything had to be the very best it could be. I spent hours researching, determined to find the elusive, perfect brunch spot that would take our holiday from pretty great to HOLYFRICKINGAWESOME. Of course, such a thing does not exist, and the time that I spent in our flat looking up ’10 Best Brunch Spots in NYC’ and then double checking against each list, looking up the TripAdvisor reviews and scouting the menus for dishes that would fit both mine and my husband’s exacting requirements, could have been spent enjoying the city. I am not spontaneous, so I could never be the kind of person who just wanders the streets and pops into the first place I see, but equally, any of the options on ’10 Best Brunch Spots in NYC’ would have been perfectly serviceable and, no doubt, delicious. Plus, with all the choices buzzing in my brain, it was hard to relax and enjoy the shakshuka at my hard-chosen restaurant – what if one of the others had had even better shakshuka? These are the problems we live with.
Maximisers & satisficers
In his 2004 book ‘The Paradox of Choice’, Barry Schwartz identifies two kinds of decision makers – maximisers and satisficers. Where satisficers will ‘settle’ for a choice that fulfils their needs and be satisfied with their decision, maximisers want to make the optimal decision and spend a lot of time and effort doing their research to ensure they’re making the best possible choice. Sound familiar?
Of course, we’re all a mixture of both. Whilst I will trawl the Internet in the hunt for the best French toast in town, I’m not so fussed when it comes to, for example, sports shoes. If my trainers fit, look fairly cute and take me slowly around my runs without giving me blisters, I’m cool with it. For others, the thought that I could just pick some up off the shelf is unthinkable. It’s not that I’m settling for mediocrity as a satisficer – I want good trainers, after all – but I am settling; once I’ve found a pair that works for me, I don’t keep looking.
Schwartz argued that those who are satisficers are happier overall; whatever the decision is, if you’re satisfied that your criteria have been met then you’re gonna be pretty pleased with the situation. Maximisers, however, are too invested in the decision and are often anxious that they have, in fact, made the ultimate choice, worrying that something else better is out there. Where once we would all have had areas in our life where we try to maximise our decisions, and do our best for the rest, the Internet has made maximising behaviours even more prevalent. With so much information at our fingertips, it’s impossible not to wonder if something better is out there.
Learning to settle
Whether it’s something simple like brunch or a new book, or something life-changing like your job, your house or even your partner, you can spend hours browsing and getting reviews so you can have the very best of everything. What’s more is that the Internet also affirms that you can and should have the very best. Between inspirational & motivational Pinterest quotes, dreamy Instagrams and the Facebook humble brag, settling just doesn’t seem all that sexy. But does the endless pursuit of this perfect pinnacle actually make us happier?
Settling has a bad rap but setting our expectations and looking for choices that meet them, but don’t necessarily exceed them, could actually be the answer to reducing anxiety and boosting happiness. After all, one shakshuka is much like another.
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