When we fall in love with someone, we don’t expect that person to be everything—to tick our every box or satisfy our every need. So why do we so often expect that kind of “you complete me!” feeling from our jobs? Not even the dreamiest of dream jobs can be all enjoyable all the time.
Barry Schwartz, a researcher on human behavior and mastermind of choice, recently suggested that most of us will find ourselves in one of two categories when it comes to making (and keeping) decisions: we’re either maximizers or satisfiers.
A maximizer always wants what’s best. (Top-end stereo speakers, the greatest recipe for sangria, the fastest car.) A satisfier, on the other hand, is content with what is good enough, as long as a few basic criteria are met. (The recipe has to include red wine and macerated fruit and be easy enough to make in bulk.) Mr. Schwartz found that maximizers tend to be more “successful” (with nicer, flashier things, better careers, etc.), but that their satisfier peers are much happier with their lot.
Career-wise, a satisfier might be pleased to stay in one job forever, provided it ticks the requisite boxes (good pay, challenging tasks, benefits, fun co-workers). A maximizer probably won’t be completely content at any job. There will always be another pay raise or promotion on the horizon—another, better company to work for—another, better reward for doing something else.
There’s nothing wrong with being a maximizer. Striving to be and do your best is always a good strategy… But it might be worth asking yourself what your criteria are, then seeing how well your current job holds up. If your current job ticks all your boxes and then some, maybe it’s worth asking why you really assume the grass is greener at that other company. Your grass might be just as nice, and worth cultivating.
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