Author Topic: Being a Maximizer is tiring....  (Read 8371 times)

therethere

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Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« on: July 07, 2017, 10:44:34 AM »
I'm sure most of us on the board are, or were at one time maximizers. You know, way overthink and research every decision to death. I'm the worst. I really feel I'm sabotaging my quality of life. I'm never happy with what I have. Always researching the next best thing (then never making a decision to do it or take the risk). Ugh. I need to change. I am the most indecisive person ever and anxiety runs high at times. Then I hold it against DH for not researching things enough, thinking of everything, etc. In the past it was "great" for the money side of things because we were aggressively paying down student loans. But now, not so much.

Any recovering maximizers out there with some strategies or resources? How can I give myself some slack and be comfortable with choices and unknowns?

sokoloff

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2017, 10:56:17 AM »
I'm an engineer, so...I can identify with it. I time my routes home, count steps on different paths to/from work, etc.
I realized that I inherently enjoy the process of maximizing, so much so that I don't even have to pull the trigger on something and still got the enjoyment from it.

If you want to curtail it, start by evaluating if the decision you're facing is large or small impact and frequent or infrequent. Many decisions will be small and infrequent. Those are the easiest and "safest" to stop worrying about.

Buying a $5 cup of coffee is a small impact decision on its own. Buying a $5 cup of coffee every day (frequent) is a problem, and so worth worrying about.

For me, even deciding where to go on our annual vacation is a small decision. We make a list of places that we want to go and I go see where the cheap flights are. Yes, I literally decide among several places based on the cost of flights (that scratches my maximizing itch) and then I have in mind that we saved $1500 on flights versus the average destination, so then I don't sweat it when we want to go do something fun and expensive while we're there.

Optimize housing, savings, debt repayment. You don't need to optimize the last $100 out of a car purchase that you do once every 8 years. (If you're buying them every 8 years, you're so far ahead of the average game...)

If the problem is getting annoyed with a spouse who doesn't maximize "enough" in your opinion, consider what some couples do which is to have some amount of separation in bank accounts/spending money pots. My wife and I pooled resources even before we married, have cards on each others' accounts, etc, but the Bank of America account is still "hers" (logically) and the USAA account "mine" and we transfer money across as needed without judgment, but day-to-day, we don't see each others' transactions. She doesn't get annoyed when I buy a new piece of electronics lab gear; I don't get annoyed when she gets her hair cut. None of those happen often enough to tank us, so "hiding" them makes the overall situation more optimized (again, scratching my optimization itch... ;) )

therethere

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #2 on: July 07, 2017, 11:15:38 AM »
For me, even deciding where to go on our annual vacation is a small decision. We make a list of places that we want to go and I go see where the cheap flights are. Yes, I literally decide among several places based on the cost of flights (that scratches my maximizing itch) and then I have in mind that we saved $1500 on flights versus the average destination, so then I don't sweat it when we want to go do something fun and expensive while we're there.

Optimize housing, savings, debt repayment. You don't need to optimize the last $100 out of a car purchase that you do once every 8 years. (If you're buying them every 8 years, you're so far ahead of the average game...)

Yes, I'm an engineer too. Maximizer and procrastinator. I do not enjoy either. I see possibilities and opportunities but can't get to them. I can talk myself out of anything due to a rational reason, but then the itch to do it never goes away so it continually stays in the back of mind mind as a possibility nagging me.

Vacations are a thorn in my side. It's just too much pressure to decide how to spend my precious vacation days. I end up delay delay delay. Right now I have 5k set aside for a vacation, but its too much pressure to choose a time/place because we'll be "missing out" on the good weather here or whatever dumb reason I come up with. Our last trip I wanted to use miles and travel over the holiday. I literally made a spreadsheet with every city in SE Asia and checked the flights for every single day covering a month+, to figure out which city to fly in and out of and what day. So much time wasted! I can force myself to make a quick decision but then regret is HUGE.

DH won't spend any money or make any decisions because he doesn't want to deal with my judgement or flip-flopping (even if I don't say anything or act it he knows I'm thinking through 1000x options in my head). I'm not trying to be critical but I am. I really want to repair this side of our relationship. Because it just ends up in DH doing less for the household and then me feeling like I'm carrying all the weight and then resenting him. It's and endless circle and none of it is productive. Now I need to somehow reverse this to achieve some balance. But its hard to reverse years of it and the associated learned behaviors.


ysette9

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #3 on: July 07, 2017, 11:22:30 AM »
Another engineer here chiming in. I think there are basically two ways of approaching decision making. First is the optimization method where you try to get *the best* whatever. That could be the best deal, the most features, or a combo of the both. The other method is to think hard, establish your requirement set, and then act on the first product that fits that set of requirements. You will never be guarnateed to get *the best* out there, but it will necessarily be sufficient, at a price you have pre-determined you are willing to pay, and it will be the fastest way to get what you need for your time.

My husband is more of the former and I am more of the latter. As we get older and our time becomes more limited, he is coming around to the idea of valuing our time and being willing to act on something that meets our requirements.

That said, he isn't there completely. Currently we are unpacking into the new house we just moved into. We have crap we need to get rid of to make space, so I have a bunch of stuff up on Craigslist. We constantly argue over what the listing price should be. He thinks the goal is to make the most money possible off of this stuff; my goal is to get someone else to haul my crap out of my living room for me to save me a trip to Goodwill. I would recommend a way of getting yourself out of the trap of constant optimization/analysis paralysis is to remind yourself that your time (and also your space) is valuable and shouldn't be discounted.

Tyson

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #4 on: July 07, 2017, 11:24:23 AM »
You might ask yourself why you have to optimize everything.  You are right that it's useful from a savings standpoint, but if it's obsessive and causing you harm, you should look into the specifics of what is driving it to such a degree.  A sense of losing out on the best deal?  Or just a sense that there's never enough money?  Or did you have a time of extreme privation in your past?

Part of it might just be that you haven't built up enough of a financial cushion yet.  I'd focus on that (getting & keeping savings rate high), and then one day you'll realize, hey, I'm rich!  Or at least way better off than almost everyone around you. 

For me it was a year's expenses saved up.  Once I knew I could go a year with no job and we'd be fine, that was a huge weight off my shoulders. 

catccc

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #5 on: July 07, 2017, 11:32:46 AM »
I'm frequently a maximizer and I notice that those who are the opposite, satisficers, can frequently get more done and are less worried than I am.  They have a bias toward action.  I do not, I analyze and analyze so I can maximize!

It's been a while since I read these books, but I suggest looking into "how we decide" by Jonah Lehrer and "smarter faster better" by charles duhigg.  Both are great reads.  If you truly are a maximizer, these will help you understand when and how to tap your maximizing tendencies for the best outcomes.  (And when to not maximize.)


therethere

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #6 on: July 07, 2017, 11:39:18 AM »
I should mention we just finished 10 years of student loan payments which totaled >250k. I was already an optimizer before school/student loans but I think it made it so much worse. College (which was a quick decision) was the biggest regret of my life. I look at it as 10 years of indentured servitude. Even though we didn't live like poor college students that whole repayment (entertainment budget and a larger apt were prioritized for sure) it definitely reinforced a scarcity mindset. For some months I scoured the checking account and would send in payments near daily. I needed to make sure I always got the absolute best deal. Because I had to! I couldn't do anything risky because I had to make sure we could pay the bills should anything happen. At this point, I don't thing any financial cushion could ever be enough because I feel so far behind and the thought of spending any of our NW terrifies me.


Tyson

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #7 on: July 07, 2017, 11:54:47 AM »
The future is gonna be awesome for you - you paid off $250k with interest working AGAINST you.  Now that you are going to be able to build up savings super-fast because interest will be working FOR you. 

IMO it's actually good that you want to keep saving.  Some people pay off debt, go "whew" and then promptly spend themselves in to debt again.  Don't be that person. 

But, once you get $100k, $300k, or $500k that is YOUR money, perspectives change. 

catccc

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #8 on: July 07, 2017, 11:58:20 AM »
I don't thing any financial cushion could ever be enough because I feel so far behind and the thought of spending any of our NW terrifies me.

I used to think like this, not because I felt behind, but just because saving was about socking it all away as fast as possible.  The thought of decimating my NW to, say, put a down payment on a house, bothered me so much!  (I know some people include their home in their NW, I didn't plan on doing that.)  I didn't want to see my NW drop for anything.  That was my thinking back when it was in the 400K range or so.  We are closing on on 800K now and the idea of drawing down now excites me a little.  I still love a good deal and want to maximize, but the mental death grip on the numbers has loosened up in recent years.   My actions around my money have not changed, but I am gaining comfort with the idea of spending $ that we've worked so hard to save.

dcozad999

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #9 on: July 07, 2017, 12:03:27 PM »
Posting to follow.  This is me.

Currently having trouble deciding on a used car. Analysis paralysis is killing me.

ender

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #10 on: July 07, 2017, 12:06:40 PM »
In general, I've found success migrating many small decisions to single decisions can be really helpful.

For example, one which I am completely thinking through right now is buying a quarter or half beef and pig, which might be (who am I kidding, definitely would be) less cost efficient than buying sale stuff, but would have a massive advantage - saving me that intellectual energy which I burn on trying to microoptimize groceries on a regular basis.

It would turn decisions every week which I overanalyze into a single, yearly decision.

Noodle

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #11 on: July 07, 2017, 12:17:31 PM »
I have a few tendencies this way myself...two suggestions...

1. When my sister was getting married many years ago, I thumbed through some wedding planning books and came across a suggestion called the "rule of three." Basically, the idea was to identify three viable options (florists, bakers, locations), research them, and pick the one that suits you best--then move on to the next decision. I have used that from time to time.

2. I have found the Wirecutter and Sweethome websites to be very helpful when I find myself getting stuck in a shopping loop (especially because I have reached the time of life when I want to spend a little more for items that will last). Instead of going crazy trying to parse Amazon reviews, I just pick whatever they recommend and have always been happy with my choice.

therethere

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #12 on: July 07, 2017, 12:25:08 PM »
I can barely figure out what to make for dinner without wasting 30+ minutes. How people can decide to buy a house is mind boggling. I really like the idea of a house, but I can't fathom spending 70k downpayment on something that may or may not go down in value. Or may or may not have thousands of dollars of repairs. So instead I complain about being priced out of the market. Then I go into analysis mode of what the hell are we going to do if we have to relocate because rent goes up.

I think we are rounding the corner that I feel like my mindset can ease up and still feel secure. But I'm failing at doing so. Even though I know its detrimental.

I'm thinking of a cold turkey low information diet and lockdown on looking at financial accounts may help in the right direction. Less incoming ideas and fretting over small $.
I'm also trying to reincorporate exercise to boost general positive mindset.

____________
Hm.. I'lll have to try the rule of 3 on some smaller scale items. Getting down to 3 options sounds overwhelming in itself.

I really like the idea to go back to requirements for bigger decisions. That's something I think I fail to do because I get blindsided by potential and optimizing once I start getting into the nitty gritty details. Having a list of requirements and how an option would fulfill those, could definitely help with the potential regret side of the equation. Kind of written confirmation that it is OKAY to make that decision.

Laura33

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #13 on: July 07, 2017, 12:37:50 PM »
The only thing that helps me is my husband's business experience:  he makes me focus on the downside risk of making the wrong choice.

I stress hugely over spending money, because I grew up where money was scarce, and therefore if it was to be spent on something it had better be the Right Choice, because choosing A meant NOT having B or C or D.  That mental behavior has remained even as my net worth surpassed seven figures.  I literally cried at the thought of buying a (used) car.

But DH, man, he's an engineer who does projects and budgets and planning, and he does not share my background or hangups.  He just looks at it logically:  what's the biggest downside risk if I screw this up?  E.g., the car:  how much are they selling it for?  If you don't like it after a year, what do you think you can sell it for?  OK, that is a delta of X.  Look at our bank account:  how many multiples of X are in there right now?  If you screw this up, will it change our ability to send our kids to college?  Will it change our ability to retire when we want to?  Etc.

Oh.  Ok. 

Jrr85

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #14 on: July 07, 2017, 12:41:11 PM »
I'm sure most of us on the board are, or were at one time maximizers. You know, way overthink and research every decision to death. I'm the worst. I really feel I'm sabotaging my quality of life. I'm never happy with what I have. Always researching the next best thing (then never making a decision to do it or take the risk). Ugh. I need to change. I am the most indecisive person ever and anxiety runs high at times. Then I hold it against DH for not researching things enough, thinking of everything, etc. In the past it was "great" for the money side of things because we were aggressively paying down student loans. But now, not so much.

Any recovering maximizers out there with some strategies or resources? How can I give myself some slack and be comfortable with choices and unknowns?

I'm guessing there is an underlying issue for you and it's not this easy, but really if you optimize on job, housing, and car, you can really get by "satisficing" on everything else.  If you feel compelled to optimize on more than that, you can hit your big monthly, recurring expenses (utilities, cable if you have it, phone service, etc) once (or once yearly) and for things like grocery budget, just set a reasonable but achievable amount per month and vow not to try to optimize provided you stay under the monthly amount. 

But again, from teh tone of your post, it sounds like your problem is not just tweaking your decision making but addressing whatever it is that makes you feel compelled to optimize.  Maybe it's as simple as regretting your student loan has caused you general anxiety about all decisions.  Not sure how to address it though.

galliver

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #15 on: July 07, 2017, 12:44:39 PM »
I am also an engineer. And a procrastinator. And I'd be lying if I didn't catch myself staring at a shelf at the grocery store trying to decide if I want to splurge on pasta sauce (or whatever) today. But I usually catch myself and just decide. And I think I do pretty well avoiding the guilt. I have two...actually three... suggestions...

1) Start some kind of gratitude and contentment practice. Maybe in a journal, maybe on facebook, maybe on these forums, maybe on a whiteboard on your fridge, maybe even in your head. Find 3 (or pick a number) good things that happen every day. Find 3 (or ?) items you use that you really enjoy using ("I'm really glad I got this skirt, I feel pretty in it" or "I really love my apartment," or "This is a great ice cream scoop," etc). This should give you an overall background of positivity and contentment, and give yourself positive feedback for previous good decisions. You are not allowed to say "but" though! No "this is good but the other one I could have got..." You appreciate the good things and dismiss the minor advantages the other *might* have had (and anyway, everything sucks a little bit in some way...the other one might have broken after a month). Hopefully, this will also take weight off future choices (since you'll know Future Self will appreciate them!)

2) Give some weight to your enjoyment and/or peace of mind. This might apply to purchases, but would definitely apply to e.g. vacation planning. I like the "rule of 3" suggested by Noodle, below.  Yes, you could consider 100 options instead of 3, but that would reflect poorly on your sanity (as you are finding). So pick a finite number of options, a finite period of time, and firmly tell yourself that the peace of mind aspect outweighs any optimization that additional options might have provided.

3) As an afterthought; make a mental habit to shut down your after-the-fact second-guessing and guilt. If you're lying on a beach in Mexico and start thinking "oh, we could have gone to the Bahamas it might have been cooler/warmer/sunnier/cloudier/cheaper/nicer etc etc" remind yourself you can't go back and remake the decision and find 3 things to enjoy about the choice you did make (see #1).

Dollar Slice

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #16 on: July 07, 2017, 01:00:13 PM »
I've had some luck pitching small choices to myself in a sort of "life of abundance" mindset. It doesn't apply to 100% of choices, but often enough that it helps.

Most of these time-wasting choices are between equally good (or nearly so) options, which is why it's so hard for us to pick. So I tell myself "Slicey, you are so damn lucky! You have not one, but two (three, four etc.) good choices! This is a win-win situation and no matter which you choose, it's all good!" This helps me just go with my gut or flip a coin or pick the one with the nicest label and move on with my life.

Tyson

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #17 on: July 07, 2017, 01:59:19 PM »
I've had some luck pitching small choices to myself in a sort of "life of abundance" mindset. It doesn't apply to 100% of choices, but often enough that it helps.

Most of these time-wasting choices are between equally good (or nearly so) options, which is why it's so hard for us to pick. So I tell myself "Slicey, you are so damn lucky! You have not one, but two (three, four etc.) good choices! This is a win-win situation and no matter which you choose, it's all good!" This helps me just go with my gut or flip a coin or pick the one with the nicest label and move on with my life.

Dude, that is awesome!  I'm totally stealing it.

wenchsenior

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #18 on: July 07, 2017, 02:28:06 PM »
I don't have much advice on 'big' decisions (moving,  house, kids, relationships, etc.). The techniques taught in Structured Decision-Making can be helpful for big stuff for some people. 

However, one thing I would point out that decision fatigue is an ever-growing problem in today's world of options and abundance.  There is a reason that Obama, with all the things on a president's plate every damn day, dressed in uniforms of similar clothes and had a very strict routine in terms of meals and exercise.  He always said his goal was to have to spend as little time and thought on the non-crucial decisions he had to make every day, and save his time and energy for the inevitable big and thorny problems.

I also do a version of this, by implementing 2 main concepts:

1.  I just don't buy much stuff.  That way I have much less to decide. I am trying to get into minimalism more and more, and in some cases take purchasing things (esp things I don't need) off the table entirely.  If I have an impulse to buy unneeded items, I force myself to wait a couple weeks and not research it.  Often, after a couple weeks I no longer care.  Or I remind myself that more stuff = more upkeep/cleaning/maintenance (e.g., fish tank = dumb idea).

2.  Things that I do buy, I try to automate as much as possible.   For example, If I find pants that fit and that I like, I buy 4 pairs so I don't have to think about it again for several more years.  I buy mostly the same brands/types of products every time I go to the grocery store, and I have about 6 'fallback' meals that I default to over and over when I'm busy.    I'm a big fan of 'good enough'...we have had cars we hated (Honda Accord P.O.S.), cars we were indifferent to (Nissan and Ford trucks), and cars we liked (Suburus).  Sure, there could be some completely optimal car out there that we haven't found, but who cares? On the rare occasions we buy cars, we now buy new Suburus so we don't have to second guess that.  We know we like 'em.

Most small decisions in life are not worth spending that much energy on. A few are, so make sure you keep the energy available for those.

Lulee

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #19 on: July 07, 2017, 05:27:53 PM »
Perhaps I’m reading your situation incorrectly but it seems your issues are not caused by overzealously trying to maximize or optimize your choices.  Instead, you seem desperately afraid, afraid of making a wrong choice in a pursuit of a mythical perfect option.  That fear is making you anxious and miserable and driving the man you love to turn away from you so he doesn't get as beat up by you for his non-perfect decisions the way you beat yourself up.  Yes, it helped you get your horrible debt paid down quickly but otherwise this is eating the heart out of your very life.

This likely started early in life the way it did for my Dad who trained me to be the same way.  He was born in the twenties, out of wedlock which then was a major source of shame, raised by people who weren't his family, and survived the Great Depression.  His whole life he made the majority of choices out of fear instilled in him from those first years and often, like you, couldn't make a decision, claiming to have good reasons, but now, as I’ve gotten older, I can see he was always just a scared, hurt kid trying to avoid pain and worried he was going to get it wrong somehow, even on things that if there was a wrong option, it wouldn't have made much of a difference anyway.

Lovey, Nothing you choose is ever going to be absolutely perfect.  We don't live in a perfect world.  If you can start by acknowledging that and constantly reminding yourself of it as the fear starts to rise up and make you anxious, it will help free you up.  Then you can whittle possibilities down like in Noodle’s “Rule of Three” and you might even find yourself mimicking Dollar Slice’s joy at having three equally excellent options.  And galliver is right about learning to not second guess yourself as it undermines your happiness with whatever choice you made.

Personally, I find fear has a lot less hold on me when I spotlight it in my thinking.  I even talk to myself aloud sometimes saying stuff like “that really isn’t helpful, Lulee, just do the best you can and it’ll be good enough, I promise”.  Sometimes I repeat those lines from the movie Dune “I must not fear.  Fear is the mind killer.  Fear is the little death.  … I will face my fear and let it pass through me."

You have lots of good qualities like determination, being hardworking, and a willingness to learn from others as you’ve shown in your replies.  Those will help you work through this if you identify and fight the real root of your anxieties.

stashgrower

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #20 on: July 08, 2017, 06:24:14 AM »
A thread to maximize the maximizers? :D

I like Dollar Slice's pizza routine!

I have someone remind me: what's the worst that could happen? Oh. Not so bad after all.

FindingFI

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #21 on: July 24, 2017, 08:58:44 AM »
Another engineer here (hazard of the job perhaps?).  I used to agonize over getting the very best deal which came with loads of stress and anxiety too.  And the biggest thing that helped me was starting to value my time and happiness as part of the equation.  Ultimately the purpose of money is to increase enjoyment, and I realized that all of the painstaking research and analysis was not making me happy, and it was costing me not only the purchase price but also hours and hours of my time that I could never get back.  A $85 hotel room that meets my needs might cost less than a $100 hotel room that also meets my needs, but if it took 10 hours to research all the options and decide, its not worth the $15 difference.  Your money is there to work for you, don't let yourself become a slave to it.

Another thing that has helped quite a bit when I've narrowed it down to two options is flipping a coin.  Not to leave the decision completely up to chance, but because once the coin is in the air I almost always find myself rooting for one option and then my choice is made before the coin even lands.  It's been an excellent strategy for deciding between two good choices.


sisto

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #22 on: July 24, 2017, 10:30:03 AM »
Perhaps I’m reading your situation incorrectly but it seems your issues are not caused by overzealously trying to maximize or optimize your choices.  Instead, you seem desperately afraid, afraid of making a wrong choice in a pursuit of a mythical perfect option.  That fear is making you anxious and miserable and driving the man you love to turn away from you so he doesn't get as beat up by you for his non-perfect decisions the way you beat yourself up.  Yes, it helped you get your horrible debt paid down quickly but otherwise this is eating the heart out of your very life.

This likely started early in life the way it did for my Dad who trained me to be the same way.  He was born in the twenties, out of wedlock which then was a major source of shame, raised by people who weren't his family, and survived the Great Depression.  His whole life he made the majority of choices out of fear instilled in him from those first years and often, like you, couldn't make a decision, claiming to have good reasons, but now, as I’ve gotten older, I can see he was always just a scared, hurt kid trying to avoid pain and worried he was going to get it wrong somehow, even on things that if there was a wrong option, it wouldn't have made much of a difference anyway.

Lovey, Nothing you choose is ever going to be absolutely perfect.  We don't live in a perfect world.  If you can start by acknowledging that and constantly reminding yourself of it as the fear starts to rise up and make you anxious, it will help free you up.  Then you can whittle possibilities down like in Noodle’s “Rule of Three” and you might even find yourself mimicking Dollar Slice’s joy at having three equally excellent options.  And galliver is right about learning to not second guess yourself as it undermines your happiness with whatever choice you made.

Personally, I find fear has a lot less hold on me when I spotlight it in my thinking.  I even talk to myself aloud sometimes saying stuff like “that really isn’t helpful, Lulee, just do the best you can and it’ll be good enough, I promise”.  Sometimes I repeat those lines from the movie Dune “I must not fear.  Fear is the mind killer.  Fear is the little death.  … I will face my fear and let it pass through me."

You have lots of good qualities like determination, being hardworking, and a willingness to learn from others as you’ve shown in your replies.  Those will help you work through this if you identify and fight the real root of your anxieties.
@Lulee, I was reading this thread this morning and completely seeing myself here. Then I read this and it was like you were talking directly to me. So crazy, you hit the nail on the head, I'm not sure why did I not see this before. It's fear, I'm afraid of making the wrong decision it's plagued me my entire life. I grew up with my Grandmother and she was very hard on me, I could never do anything right or good enough. That made me hard on myself in my adult life, but I didn't realized it affected my decision making like this until I read this. While it was hard, I feel like I wouldn't be the successful person I am today if it weren't for her. At least now I have something to work on to try and make things even better. THANKS!

joonifloofeefloo

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #23 on: July 24, 2017, 10:33:11 AM »
ha ha, love this thread, because: me too! Sometimes it's fun and cool and has amazing results. Sometimes it's horrible and sucks.

Lookilu

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #24 on: July 24, 2017, 10:39:25 AM »
Perhaps I’m reading your situation incorrectly but it seems your issues are not caused by overzealously trying to maximize or optimize your choices.  Instead, you seem desperately afraid, afraid of making a wrong choice in a pursuit of a mythical perfect option.  That fear is making you anxious and miserable and driving the man you love to turn away from you so he doesn't get as beat up by you for his non-perfect decisions the way you beat yourself up.  Yes, it helped you get your horrible debt paid down quickly but otherwise this is eating the heart out of your very life.

This likely started early in life the way it did for my Dad who trained me to be the same way.  He was born in the twenties, out of wedlock which then was a major source of shame, raised by people who weren't his family, and survived the Great Depression.  His whole life he made the majority of choices out of fear instilled in him from those first years and often, like you, couldn't make a decision, claiming to have good reasons, but now, as I’ve gotten older, I can see he was always just a scared, hurt kid trying to avoid pain and worried he was going to get it wrong somehow, even on things that if there was a wrong option, it wouldn't have made much of a difference anyway.

Lovey, Nothing you choose is ever going to be absolutely perfect.  We don't live in a perfect world.  If you can start by acknowledging that and constantly reminding yourself of it as the fear starts to rise up and make you anxious, it will help free you up.  Then you can whittle possibilities down like in Noodle’s “Rule of Three” and you might even find yourself mimicking Dollar Slice’s joy at having three equally excellent options.  And galliver is right about learning to not second guess yourself as it undermines your happiness with whatever choice you made.

Personally, I find fear has a lot less hold on me when I spotlight it in my thinking.  I even talk to myself aloud sometimes saying stuff like “that really isn’t helpful, Lulee, just do the best you can and it’ll be good enough, I promise”.  Sometimes I repeat those lines from the movie Dune “I must not fear.  Fear is the mind killer.  Fear is the little death.  … I will face my fear and let it pass through me."

You have lots of good qualities like determination, being hardworking, and a willingness to learn from others as you’ve shown in your replies.  Those will help you work through this if you identify and fight the real root of your anxieties.

This is very insightful, Lulee. I recognize myself and the OP in what you've written. Thank you for this!
Fear of making the wrong choices can paralyze us. DH knows this about me, and is patient while I indulge in 'talk therapy' with him over what (to me) are big decisions. Not every choice you make will be perfect, and that's okay. And in the end it doesn't matter. Perfection is not a necessity. Good enough is good enough. Make decisions and choices that you can live with--there's been excellent advice offered here already--and let the anxiety go.   

FireHiker

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #25 on: July 24, 2017, 10:40:43 AM »
This has been a very interesting read for me, another engineer who falls into this category. I plan/optimize everything to death, whereas my husband plans nothing. Now, it is a skill that certainly has come in handy for family travel, but it often leaves me paralyzed with too many options. When it comes to FIRE, we know that we want to leave San Diego and go to a lower COL area with trees and mountains. But, there are so many good options that I am already overwhelmed by the prospect of making a decision. Even though the decision is 7-13 years away! Trying to find a way for it to work FOR me and not against me is a regular challenge.

Noodle

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #26 on: July 24, 2017, 02:44:39 PM »
I forgot in my original post to recommend the book "Decisive" by Dan and Chip Heath, about good decision-making practices. A lot of the book focuses on recognizing and working around cognitive biases that can lead to poor decisions, but I think feeling more confident in decision-making skills might help one get past the "analysis paralysis" stage.

Maenad

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #27 on: July 25, 2017, 08:24:35 AM »
Perhaps I’m reading your situation incorrectly but it seems your issues are not caused by overzealously trying to maximize or optimize your choices.  Instead, you seem desperately afraid, afraid of making a wrong choice in a pursuit of a mythical perfect option.  That fear is making you anxious and miserable and driving the man you love to turn away from you so he doesn't get as beat up by you for his non-perfect decisions the way you beat yourself up.  Yes, it helped you get your horrible debt paid down quickly but otherwise this is eating the heart out of your very life.

Oh sweetie, yes, this. I really do recommend that you meet with a therapist, to help you with some tools in addition to what's been mentioned here. As yet another engineer with some of the same tendencies, I totally understand the analysis paralysis, but I think you've got a little more than that to deal with. It hurts my heart to read how unhappy you sound, and you deserve to be happy and be proud of all you've accomplished.

RWD

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #28 on: July 25, 2017, 08:57:08 AM »
If you want to curtail it, start by evaluating if the decision you're facing is large or small impact and frequent or infrequent. Many decisions will be small and infrequent. Those are the easiest and "safest" to stop worrying about.

Related xkcd comic:
https://xkcd.com/1205/

kenaces

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #29 on: July 25, 2017, 09:03:55 AM »
I am not an engineer but I have pretty serious maximizer tendencies.  I found this book really interesting and helpful.

The Paradox of Choice

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000TDGGVU/ref=oh_aui_d_detailpage_o00_?ie=UTF8&psc=1

JanetJackson

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #30 on: July 25, 2017, 09:07:38 AM »
Non-Engineer here,
Following because I am also choked by the simplest choices hoping to optimize... always involving optimized frugality. 
I think it's helped me a get this far in life (arguable) on a low income from a low income upbringing, but I really can get by without optimizing my shampoo & rice & ibuprofen (I'm currently obsessed with using the ibuprofen at work, and keep calculating how much this saves me... and recalculating and recalculating... to the point where I'm not sure I even need to take it, or if I'm just obsessing about not having to buy it myself) & every stupid little thing repetitively (once is enough). 
It's absolutely paralyzing, and for me FI is about being able to step away from that, and know that I'll "be ok" not looking for the best deal on dish soap or making the absolute most out of a "splurge" night out for dinner.

 I want to turn the volume down on this part of my brain, but I do need/value it right now.


PoutineLover

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #31 on: July 25, 2017, 10:20:04 AM »
Another engineer! It takes me a long time to make decisions on big purchases where I'm the only one involved (insurance, whether I *really* need that new thing, etc.) But when other people are involved I trust them to do some of the research, and am cool with the option that's pretty good, works for everyone, so just book/buy it now and move on. When shopping I always do a bit of comparison for price/volume/value but it doesn't take me too long for most things since I tend to buy a lot of the same stuff and have a good idea of what I like and how much it should cost. I agonized a long time over whether to use my savings to pay off my student loans and in the end I went for the payoff since it was psychologically more rewarding for me, even if the financial aspect may have leaned more towards keep investing and pay slower. There is no perfect decision, just good enough based on info given, so apply the Pareto principle and bite the bullet.

Lulee

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #32 on: July 26, 2017, 10:25:10 AM »
I thought I'd found my people when I found MMM but now I've really found my people!  With apologies to Shakespeare, "We few, we anxious few, we band of Brothers!".

therethere

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #33 on: July 26, 2017, 10:39:13 AM »
Funny that this thread revived. I had the perfect chance to practice this last night when our fan died and we needed a replacement. I failed miserably....

Decided I would make a decision in an hour and go with it. Chose a line of fans, looked at prices and availability at a few stores, then ordered... An hour later I got regret, chose a second fan and cancelled the order. This morning, I changed my mind AGAIN and reordered the same fan I ordered the night before. Ugh. All while nagging myself in the back of my head that I shouldn't be researching and checking so many places! Seriously I have a problem.

As a bonus, I did make the first attempt to get back into a meditation habit this morning. My brain went bonkers. I tried to get into 5-10 min meditation in the morning earlier this year and lasted about a month (still not long enough to reach a clear head).

joonifloofeefloo

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #34 on: July 26, 2017, 10:47:19 AM »
In case it provides any hope, I've managed to transform much of my maximizing.

I still do it with:
*third party funding (boy, the circus tricks I will do to benefit from every penny!)
*housing costs (thus am feeling crazy re: housing these days)
*laptops (thus do not have one)
*mattress (thus do not have one)

But I HAVE managed to let go in the other areas: can openers! groceries! clothing! driving! Each of you will know what a joyous victory over my own brain this has been :)

The other piece: Meditation does not help me beyond the moment I am meditating (if that). It makes me more floaty and wanting to ground, which I attempt to do by maximizing. What DOES work to calm me so I know what doesn't matter is stuff around the vagus nerve: proprioception, specific weird breathing techniques, being squeezed. When I do those, I know what doesn't matter and can move on.

MountainTown

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #35 on: July 27, 2017, 10:00:38 PM »
Following this thread...I am a horrible maximizer.

And TBH I think these forums can make it worse lol!

stashgrower

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #36 on: July 27, 2017, 11:28:47 PM »
LOL jooniFLORisploo. It saved my life when someone else bought me a can opener!!

joonifloofeefloo

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #37 on: July 27, 2017, 11:38:37 PM »
LOL jooniFLORisploo. It saved my life when someone else bought me a can opener!!

Oh goodness, I so know this relief!!! :)

2Cent

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #38 on: July 28, 2017, 05:06:43 AM »
Engineer and maximizer here too. I always think of a story of an artist with a beautiful block of granite. But he could not start because if he chipped something of the block it would destroy all the possible works that could have been.

I once spent months compiling data about cars, mileage, maintenance, resale value, etc. I even made a calculation tool to load data and compare cost over different time spans. In the end I realized there where just too many unknowns to make a decision this way, so I reduced everything to a minimum required level, and kept just one factors as the deciding factor which was the mileage. I had to force myself to not go and see if I could get a bit better deal and just pick the car with the lowest mileage within my budget which met all criteria.

Nowadays I try to time box this kind of decision which also helps me focus. And for cheap items I just get the most expensive one if there's a clear quality difference, and the cheapest one if there is not. The time it takes to compare is more valuable than comparing the 50 cent item with the 40 cent one. I will only consider if I actually need it at all.

kenaces

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #39 on: July 28, 2017, 11:16:07 AM »
After reading the book I mentioned above I have been trying to simplify and outsource some of my decisions.  If I am buying something I am either going to offerup.com(look for cheap deals) or just go with recommendation on thewirecutter.com(for items I can't/won't buy used).

Anyone else have tips/ideas/suggestions on how to simplify and be less of a maximizer?

ChpBstrd

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #40 on: July 28, 2017, 01:34:21 PM »
Some recommendations:

1) Go outside and set a dollar bill on fire. I'm dead serious. Don't just imagine yourself doing it. Actually get a lighter and burn a buck. You will never forget the feeling of psychological liberty you felt the day you gave yourself permission to waste just so you could feel the strength of being able to choose to do so. If you cannot bring yourself to destroy $1 in exchange for proof that you have this kind of power, you may need to see a counselor. Your obsession with perfection and efficiency might just own you. My unauthorized take on Mustachianism's objective is that we're building the strength/capability/flexibility to be self-directed, rather than being dragged around by the nose in the pursuit of emotions and assumptions sold to us by marketers and the miserable, misdirected people around us. Obsessing over little things, like burning $1 one time, is not self-direction. Take the challenge. Do you have this strength?

2) Engineers: Examine a push lawnmower. It is a model of inefficiency and suboptimization. The combustion chamber generates maybe 70 psi, whereas a high performance engine would be twice that. It lacks fuel injection, computer ignition control, or variable valve timing - any of which would improve efficiency and horsepower yield. Every part of the engine has more slop and wider tolerances than your car. The wheels roll on bushings rather than ball bearings.

However, maximized push lawnmower would be an engineering failure. A high-compression engine would be nearly impossible to pull-start. Fuel injection, computerized ignition, and variable valve timing would add hundreds to the price and save maybe $5 of fuel during the lifetime of the machine. The engine's sloppy tolerances reduce the cost and allow it to better digest environmental dust and long periods of no use without seizing. Ball bearing wheels would be more likely to rust in place over the winter.

Your lawnmower is a commercial and practical success because it is not built as well as your car, not in spite of that fact. Because the mower meets requirements instead of exceeding them, it costs $160 instead of $1,600 AND it is more reliable and appropriate for its use cases.

Parts of our lives might have high-performance requirements like a jet engine, but most of our lives resemble the requirements of the lawnmower. The confusing part is that as manufacturers of our own highly variable lives, we must constantly choose the appropriate level of quality to meet our goals but not waste time or energy exceeding the requirements.

Look around. We are surrounded by things that work better because they are not maximized, things that are flexible instead of rigid, things we can actually have because maximization was not required, things that are beautiful or cherished because they are not minimal, and things/people that are adaptable thanks to many suboptimal properties.

Appreciate the beauty of variable quality and seek the wisdom to predict the minimum level of quality / requirements that will keep your life goals on track.

3) Read "Decisive" by Chip and Dan Heath, as mentioned above.

Laura33

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #41 on: July 28, 2017, 02:08:02 PM »
Some recommendations:

1) Go outside and set a dollar bill on fire. I'm dead serious. Don't just imagine yourself doing it. Actually get a lighter and burn a buck. You will never forget the feeling of psychological liberty you felt the day you gave yourself permission to waste just so you could feel the strength of being able to choose to do so. If you cannot bring yourself to destroy $1 in exchange for proof that you have this kind of power, you may need to see a counselor. Your obsession with perfection and efficiency might just own you. My unauthorized take on Mustachianism's objective is that we're building the strength/capability/flexibility to be self-directed, rather than being dragged around by the nose in the pursuit of emotions and assumptions sold to us by marketers and the miserable, misdirected people around us. Obsessing over little things, like burning $1 one time, is not self-direction. Take the challenge. Do you have this strength?

2) Engineers: Examine a push lawnmower. It is a model of inefficiency and suboptimization. The combustion chamber generates maybe 70 psi, whereas a high performance engine would be twice that. It lacks fuel injection, computer ignition control, or variable valve timing - any of which would improve efficiency and horsepower yield. Every part of the engine has more slop and wider tolerances than your car. The wheels roll on bushings rather than ball bearings.

However, maximized push lawnmower would be an engineering failure. A high-compression engine would be nearly impossible to pull-start. Fuel injection, computerized ignition, and variable valve timing would add hundreds to the price and save maybe $5 of fuel during the lifetime of the machine. The engine's sloppy tolerances reduce the cost and allow it to better digest environmental dust and long periods of no use without seizing. Ball bearing wheels would be more likely to rust in place over the winter.

Your lawnmower is a commercial and practical success because it is not built as well as your car, not in spite of that fact. Because the mower meets requirements instead of exceeding them, it costs $160 instead of $1,600 AND it is more reliable and appropriate for its use cases.

Parts of our lives might have high-performance requirements like a jet engine, but most of our lives resemble the requirements of the lawnmower. The confusing part is that as manufacturers of our own highly variable lives, we must constantly choose the appropriate level of quality to meet our goals but not waste time or energy exceeding the requirements.

Look around. We are surrounded by things that work better because they are not maximized, things that are flexible instead of rigid, things we can actually have because maximization was not required, things that are beautiful or cherished because they are not minimal, and things/people that are adaptable thanks to many suboptimal properties.

Appreciate the beauty of variable quality and seek the wisdom to predict the minimum level of quality / requirements that will keep your life goals on track.

3) Read "Decisive" by Chip and Dan Heath, as mentioned above.

2 is my favorite post of the week, bar none.  Well said.

wenchsenior

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #42 on: July 28, 2017, 03:06:05 PM »
Some recommendations:

1) Go outside and set a dollar bill on fire. I'm dead serious. Don't just imagine yourself doing it. Actually get a lighter and burn a buck. You will never forget the feeling of psychological liberty you felt the day you gave yourself permission to waste just so you could feel the strength of being able to choose to do so. If you cannot bring yourself to destroy $1 in exchange for proof that you have this kind of power, you may need to see a counselor. Your obsession with perfection and efficiency might just own you. My unauthorized take on Mustachianism's objective is that we're building the strength/capability/flexibility to be self-directed, rather than being dragged around by the nose in the pursuit of emotions and assumptions sold to us by marketers and the miserable, misdirected people around us. Obsessing over little things, like burning $1 one time, is not self-direction. Take the challenge. Do you have this strength?

2) Engineers: Examine a push lawnmower. It is a model of inefficiency and suboptimization. The combustion chamber generates maybe 70 psi, whereas a high performance engine would be twice that. It lacks fuel injection, computer ignition control, or variable valve timing - any of which would improve efficiency and horsepower yield. Every part of the engine has more slop and wider tolerances than your car. The wheels roll on bushings rather than ball bearings.

However, maximized push lawnmower would be an engineering failure. A high-compression engine would be nearly impossible to pull-start. Fuel injection, computerized ignition, and variable valve timing would add hundreds to the price and save maybe $5 of fuel during the lifetime of the machine. The engine's sloppy tolerances reduce the cost and allow it to better digest environmental dust and long periods of no use without seizing. Ball bearing wheels would be more likely to rust in place over the winter.

Your lawnmower is a commercial and practical success because it is not built as well as your car, not in spite of that fact. Because the mower meets requirements instead of exceeding them, it costs $160 instead of $1,600 AND it is more reliable and appropriate for its use cases.

Parts of our lives might have high-performance requirements like a jet engine, but most of our lives resemble the requirements of the lawnmower. The confusing part is that as manufacturers of our own highly variable lives, we must constantly choose the appropriate level of quality to meet our goals but not waste time or energy exceeding the requirements.

Look around. We are surrounded by things that work better because they are not maximized, things that are flexible instead of rigid, things we can actually have because maximization was not required, things that are beautiful or cherished because they are not minimal, and things/people that are adaptable thanks to many suboptimal properties.

Appreciate the beauty of variable quality and seek the wisdom to predict the minimum level of quality / requirements that will keep your life goals on track.

3) Read "Decisive" by Chip and Dan Heath, as mentioned above.

2 is my favorite post of the week, bar none.  Well said.

I love this post also.  Having a perfectionist nature, it took far too many years to really recognize that perfectionism is in almost direct opposition to what I view as living 'well and happily'.  I usually actively reject it now, and embrace the concept of 'good enough'.

Kl285528

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #43 on: July 28, 2017, 09:26:40 PM »
Posting to follow

GuitarStv

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #44 on: July 28, 2017, 09:31:41 PM »
Posting to follow

Posting to read later for tips to further maximize things . . .

RWD

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #45 on: July 28, 2017, 10:08:35 PM »
LOL jooniFLORisploo. It saved my life when someone else bought me a can opener!!

Oh goodness, I so know this relief!!! :)
Posting to follow

Posting to read later for tips to further maximize things . . .

I highly recommend a smooth edge can opener. We were getting tired of our old can opener that you had to grip really hard or it would slip. I was browsing the can openers at the local grocery store and saw a smooth edge can opener for a little bit more than the regular ones (maybe $15-20?). I had no idea how it could possible work but I bought it anyway.

And it is amazing! You don't have to grip it hard, you just set it on the top of the can and turn the dial. No part of the can opener will touch the contents of the can, so you don't have to worry about washing it every use (just the handle occasionally, I guess). The can lid comes off cleanly every time with no sharp edges (my old can opener tried to kill me once by leaving a sliver of metal in my food...). This can opener has made us stop dreading opening cans and hence more excited for cooking meals.

I believe the one I bought was this one but there should be many similar ones.

stashgrower

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #46 on: July 29, 2017, 01:01:43 AM »
Post-it note to self: remember the lawn mower.

life_travel

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Re: Being a Maximizer is tiring....
« Reply #47 on: July 29, 2017, 07:29:23 PM »
The lawn mower analogy is fantastic !! I'm not an engineer but it made perfect sense to me . Years ago I was a perfectionist but retrained myself to accept " good enough " , same with optimisation. I am somewhat obsessed with maximising benefits but not to the degree OP described :)
Just got the book " Decisive" out of the library yesterday as so many on this thread had mentioned it ... Looking forward on starting my self improvement journey towards concuring over - optimisation .