Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states
There are several people I know, some of them patients and some of them friends, who, when it comes to making a decisions, go through an agonizing process. What makes the process of deciding so painful is that they feel compelled to examine every detail before moving ahead and making a choice. Having made the choice, they begin the process of agonizing whether or not it was the right choice. This agonizing is so bad that it becomes stressful and depressing.
For example, I know someone who was in the market for a new television. Before making the purchase, they had to decide between Comcast, DirecTV, and Satellite TV to deliver their programming and movies. First came interviewing friends and neighbors about which of the companies they used, why they used them and how satisfied they were. Then came the matter of pricing. Which company had the most reasonable pricing along with the best service and programming. While all of this may seem reasonable to the reader it must be understood that this took three months along with repeated phone calls to each company and lots of vacillating between one and the other. Finally, a choice was made. Done? NO!!
Now came the choice of television!!! Yes, this also became part of an agonizing process that took another three months. In the meantime, the entire family was being driven to distraction over what they thought should have been a relatively easy process that others had make no trouble at all.
When all was said and done, and everything was installed, which, by the way, was also a long decision-making process about where to place the television, surround sound speakers and wiring, came a new problem. Were the best choices made. In other words, any chance of pleasure was rendered totally impossible.
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According to some new research done at Florida State University by assistant professor of psychology, Joyce Ehrlinger, people who experience these types of difficulties with choices actually cannot make a commitment. She refers to these people as “maximizers.” Maximizers experience enormous amounts of anxiety, depression and stress over all decisions, big and small. Whether its choosing a toaster, husband or wife, television or house, they cannot feel happy or satisfied after a choice is finally made.
If you are a maximizer, how can you change this so that agonizing is brought to an end. According to Ehrlinger, who describes herself as a maximizer, it’s important to become aware that there is a problem.
Then, once a decision is made, it’s important to focus on the choice made and why it’s what you want, rather than thinking about what was not chosen. Along with this, remind yourself that you made the best choice possible. Reinforcing this is adopting the concept that there is no perfection, whether it comes to a choice or anything else in life.
Are you a maximizer? Do you live with or know a maximizer? Does it frustrate you? Feeling overwhelmed by constant overthinking? Discover clarity by taking our specialized overthinking quiz. Please comment about this issue.
Allan N. Schwartz, PhD
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