Quesadillas, Muffins, and Decisions
“Just decide to be more decisive.”
Chidi Anagonye, The Good Place
I was once on a committee charged with infusing our university’s curriculum with critical thinking as it pertains to decision making.
At one of the meetings, the committee chair asked what we had for dinner the night before. I responded quesadillas. She asked why quesadillas. I then explained that the quesadilla recipe called for avocado, jalapeño, and green onions, so I had to have the quesadillas on that particular night because those ingredients were fresh and I knew that rotting food in landfills was bad for the environment. I created a menu for the entire week from a recipe list, built a grocery list from there, and chose the particular meal for each night to avoid waste.
Everyone looked at me kind of funny.
And, with my overthinking, I ruined the point of the exercise, which was to demonstrate that not all decisions include critical thinking. Some people apparently just decided what they were in the mood for and ate it.
I am what psychologists call a maximizer as opposed to a satisfizer.
As the name implies, a maximizer attempts to get the maximum benefit out of every decision.
A satisfizer is more easily satisfied and makes decisions without the or or or or or or that echoes through my head.
In other words, I am Chidi Anagoyne from the TV show The Good Place. Chidi agonizes over every decision as if it were life or death and makes his life hell in the process.
At one point, Chidi finally evolves some and is able to order a blueberry muffin with confidence. It’s a moment of great success. His friend Henry comments, “You chose that muffin in less than a minute. That beats your old record by 59 minutes.” Chidi feels genuine happiness, exclaiming, “Oh, wow, I’ve never been happy!”
Alas, the happiness is temporary. Having urged Henry to be decisive also, Chidi feels completely responsible when Henry’s decision to get into shape lands him in the hospital with a comical series of injuries. On top of that, Chidi brings Henry a muffin basket only to learn from the nurse that migrant workers who pick blueberries are mistreated.
When next we see Chidi, he is once again at the coffee cart unable to decide on a muffin, finally telling the proprietor, “I’ve made my decision. I want to start crying.”
Chidi and I aren’t wrong. We should make decisions that are of benefit to the planet and those who occupy it.
However, the chair of that committee was right too. Some choices you should just make without the or or or or or agony.
Maximizers are double bound by anxiety because this desire to maximize comes from our anxious desire to control, and since we can’t control everything—not all avocados or blueberries—we’re setting ourselves up for failure and probably crying.
The Dalai Lama’s recommendation for dealing with anxiety is to ask ourselves if there is something we can do to fix this problem. If there is, we do it, which means there is no reason to feel anxiety. If there isn’t, then there’s no point in getting anxious because we have no control over what will happen, and our anxiety won’t help.
Like Chidi, I’m working on being more of a satisfizer and recognizing that not every decision is life or death but that I can make my life pretty miserable if I act as if it is.
While it might be worth a moment’s pause when picking out the morning muffin, remember that coffee is easy. Always get the large. Coffee should be maximized.