McBrayer: Grass is only greener above the septic tank
Author Gretchen Rubin says there are two kinds of people in the world, or at least two ways to make decisions in this world. There is the “satisficer” (yes, that’s a real word that has been the subject of “rational choice theory” studies for some seven decades now); and there is the “maximizer.”
“Satisficers” are those who are able to make decisions once their basic criteria are met. This doesn’t mean they settle for mediocrity; their criteria can be exceedingly high. But as soon as they find what they are looking for — whether it is be a microwave, university, or apartment — the search ends and the “satisficer” gets busy being happy.
“Maximizers,” on the other hand, must make the optimal decision, and are obsessively compelled to do so. They go looking for that special recipe for a dinner party, a new car, or even a spouse. Whatever it is they seek, it has to be absolutely perfect, and nothing less than flawlessness will do.
Even if they find something (or someone) that is exceptional, they have trouble committing. And even when they do choose, “maximizers” languish about in regret, always thinking about what “might have been” or the grass that is greener on the other side of the fence.
Studies suggest that “satisficers” tend to be happier than “maximizers.” This is not only because “maximizers” spend a lot more time and energy coming to a decision, but because they fret and stew long after the decision is made, wondering if they made the best choice.
Here is a timely word of wisdom: Life will never — never — be exactly as we wish it to be, no matter how much time we take making that perfect decision. The Apostle Paul came to this same conclusion. He said in the book of Philippians, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
That last line, of Paul’s, so often printed on workout T-shirts, Bible covers, and coffee mugs, isn’t trite encouragement for “maximizers” to keep striving toward that hoped-for state of ideal perfection. It is about learning to be a “satisficer:” By Christ’s power, take circumstances as they come — and find happiness in the process — even when life isn’t flawless.
Certainly, our decisions should not be made haphazardly. We all require wisdom — and God will give exactly that if we ask for it — but decisions do not require perfection. That’s what grace is for, and God will give us plenty of that, too. Besides, that greener grass on the other side of the fence doesn’t exist. The only place the grass is greener is above the septic tank, and trust me: Nobody can be satisfied living there.
Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, blogger, pastor and author of multiple books. Visit his website at ronniemcbrayer.net.