Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Misery and Maximizers

John Maeda made a brilliant observation in his TED talk about simplicity.  To paraphrase: people like complexity in things they enjoy, and they hate complexity in things they dislike.  Yes!  Complexity in music & books captivates me, complexity in my tax returns makes me want to jump in front of a train.

In 2010, I’ll be trying to reduce some of the unnecessary complexities in my life.  As an organization freak & computer lover with a subconscious lust for complex systems, this won’t be easy, but I think Maeda’s point provides excellent guidance.

I’m also getting some terrific input from a book called The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz, a psychologist and professor at Swarthmore College.  The book aims to explain why a culture with greater freedom & variety than any other in history is causing people to be unhappier and less satisfied with their decisions.  In Chapter 4, Schwartz explains the difference between maximizers (those who must find the best possible choice for every decision) and satisficers (those who settle for good enough and don’t worry about the existence of better possibilities).  Guess which one correlates more strongly with less satisfaction with life, less happiness, less optimism, and more depression?  As a solid maximizer (as evaluated by the survey in the book), I wasn’t happy to learn the answer.

One recurring theme of the book: reducing the number of options often leads to greater satisfaction with a decision.  I think that’s something I can work with.

* * * * * * *

This week, the girl you see here turned 25.

You might think a 25-year-old should be more mature.  I blame her boyfriend for being a bad influence.