Are you a Maximizer or Satisficer?

You’d think that with our increased mobility and online shopping increasing our buying options, consumers would be much more grateful for their purchases. Instead, the excessive range of choices is making it harder and harder for people to find pleasure in their purchases. The reasons for this are:

  • The abundance of choice escalates our expectations of what we buy.
  • We feel sure that there’s some better deal out there that we didn’t discover.
  • If something we buy is not perfect, we ruminate on all the advantages of the alternatives.
  • We anticipate the regret that we’ll experience when we will see the same thing in a few weeks at a lower price

Maximizers
Psychologists such as Jessica Colman call such agitated consumers “Maximizers.” They “strive to make the absolute best decision, ‘I must find the perfect…’ They are always looking for the next best thing, and spend a great deal of time and energy making choices. Maximizers also tend to have more depression, regret, and anxiety.” Maximizers maximize the deal but minimize satisfaction in it.

Satisficers
In contrast, “Satisficers” maximize satisfaction. They don’t strive for the best possible deal but can accept something as “good enough.”

While someone who maximizes might obtain an objectively better outcome, they will be subjectively worse off, and less satisfied with their choice. By embracing and appreciating satisficing, and attempting to intentionally cultivate it, people have less regret and more peace of mind.

Practical Tips
To become a better “satisficer” Julia Colman recommends:

  • Setting deadlines for decisions.
  • Limiting the number of shops or websites you will research.
  • Making decisions non-reversible.
  • Focusing on the good elements of the decision.
  • Accepting a degree of buyer’s remorse.
  • Limiting comparison with others.

Just like yesterday, some helpful practical tips to help us learn “in whatever state I am, to be content,” (Phil 4:11) and “in every thing to give thanks” (1 Thess. 5:18).


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How far can we go?
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Thankful People are Happy People

Research shows that gratitude is a powerful force for creating positive changes in individuals, families, and organizations. In fact, according to Sonja Lyubomirsky, a research professor of psychology, “The expression of gratitude is a kind of metastrategy for achieving happiness.” Some of the more detailed findings, published in books like The Happiness Advantage, Flourish, and Optimal Functioning, are:

  • Consistently grateful people are more energetic, emotionally intelligent, forgiving, and less likely to be depressed, anxious, or lonely.
  • When researchers pick random volunteers and train them to be more grateful over a period of a few weeks, they become happier and more optimistic, feel more socially connected, enjoy better quality sleep, and even experience fewer headaches than control groups.
  • By noticing more kindness you’ll experience more of it in your life. Counting kindness interventions involve taking daily tallies (mental or physical) of kind acts committed and witnessed, and have been shown to increase people’s levels of positivity.
  • Gratitude encourages moral behavior and helps people cope with stress, trauma, and adversity.
  • It also inhibits negative comparisons with others and pushes out and replaces negative emotions.
  • When we express our gratitude to others, we strengthen our relationship with them.
  • Studies show that consistently grateful people are happier and more satisfied with their lives
  • Thankful people feel more physically healthy and spend more time exercising.

In The Happiness Project, the best-selling biographical experiment in positive psychology, Gretchen Rubin explains the benefits of increased thankfulness in her own life:

Gratitude brings freedom from envy, because when you’re grateful for what you have, you’re not consumed with wanting something different or something more. That, in turn, makes it easier to live within your means and also to be generous to others. Gratitude fosters forbearance – it’s harder to feel disappointed with someone when you’re feeling grateful toward him or her. Gratitude also connects you to the natural world, because one of the easiest things to feel grateful for is the beauty of nature.

Increasing Gratitude

We can increase gratitude in our lives by intensifying the feeling of it for each positive event, by increasing the frequency of it throughout the day, by widening the number of things we’re grateful for, and by expressing gratitude to more people. Some positive psychologists, like Jessica Colman, also encourage the practice of “savoring” which has three phases:

  • Anticipation: Generating positive feelings before an event occurs.
  • Present enjoyment: Generating positive feelings in the present by intensifying or prolonging them through thoughts and behaviors.
  • Reminiscence: Generating positive feelings by looking back on an event in a way that re-kindles positive emotion.

In Flourish, Martin Seligman identified four kinds of savoring:

  • Basking: Reveling in or making the most of praise or congratulations.
  • Thanksgiving: Experiencing or expressing gratitude.
  • Marveling: Being filled with wonder, astonishment, or awe.
  • Luxuriating: Delighting in the experience of the senses.

Some more practical activities for increasing gratitude are explained in Optimal Functioning:

  • Gratitude Journal: Write down what you are grateful for each day, and describe in detail why each good thing happened. This draws the attention to the precursors of good events and helps people become aware of more things to be grateful for, deepening the experience.
  • Gratitude Essay or Letter: Write an essay about, or a letter to someone to whom you feel grateful. Explain why you feel grateful in detail. If you write a letter it is not necessary to deliver it, but delivering it can produce even more positive emotion for the writer and the receiver.
  • Gratitude Partner: Plan to practice gratitude regularly with a partner by sharing good news and discussing things you feel grateful for. Respond actively and constructively when your partner shares, feeling the joy and gratitude with them when they share their blessings.
  • Meditate on the Feeling of Gratitude: Sit in a quiet place to meditate, call to mind things you feel grateful for, savor the feeling of gratitude, and let it impact your whole body.
  • Express Gratitude Directly: Make a habit of thanking people authentically for the things they do for you and the impact they have on your life.

More blessed to give than to receive

As far as I know, none of these positive psychology experts have Christian faith. And yet God is using them not only to confirm the Bible’s teaching about giving (of thanks) making us happier than receiving (Acts 20:35), but also to work out the practical details of how to increase gratitude in our lives for everyone’s benefit.

It’s the kind of thing that makes us wonder how unbelievers sometimes seem to have more understanding of biblical principles than Christians! But the Apostle Paul helps us make sense of this. He says that when unbelievers, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, they show the work of the law written in their hearts (Rom. 2:14-15).


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Sanctification by Time Travel

Many books and films have explored the fascinating appeal of time travel. Usually a mad scientist constructs some kind of machine or potion that enables him or someone else to travel backwards or forwards in time. And of course, when they come back to the present, what they found out about the past or the future has a huge impact on how they view the present and what they do in the present.

Spiritual Time Travel

Although this remains a fantasy, something for science-fiction rather than non-fiction, the Bible encourages us to spiritual time travel. The believer uses faith to transport herself into the future, a spiritual experience that has significant sanctifying impact on the present (2 Peter 3:11). And in Romans 6, the believer uses faith to transport himself back in time, again with significant present impact.

This spiritual time travel is not an optional extra, something for high-flying Christians, but this is something for every Christian to try. In fact, you will never make much lasting progress in holiness if you do not travel back in time to Calvary’s cross and the empty tomb.

Let me put this as bluntly and as starkly as possible: The Christian’s holiness depends primarily on his/her ability to time travel by faith.

Yes there are other helpful strategies for pursuing holiness including diligent use of the means of grace, spiritual disciplines, remembering the warnings about disobedience, and the promises of spiritual reward for obedience. However, the greatest help to holiness, without which none of these others can have any lasting effects is learning to travel back in time by faith to the Cross of Calvary and the Empty Tomb.

So, let’s get in the faith machine and travel back about 1970 years. When we come out, what do we see?

Dead to sin

On a cross on Calvary’s hill we see a central figure limp and lifeless. We see Christ dead. More, we see Christ dead to sin (Rom. 6:10).

“Dead to sin?” What does that mean? It doesn’t mean that Jesus stopped sinning – that He was alive to sin, living in sin, and now he’s dead to sin, no longer living in it.

What does it mean then?

Well, when someone dies, their connection with everything in this world ends. For example, they are severed from their family and friends. In that sense they are now dead to their family. They have no relationship or connection with them.

Similarly, “Christ died to sin” means He has no further relationship or connection with sin’s guilt and penalty – that’s severed and ended. As Paul said earlier: “He that is dead is freed from sin.” “The death he died, He died to sin once for all” (7, 10)

Prior to His death, the holy Jesus was in a constant agonizing relationship with sin’s guilt and penalty. But by His death, this connection, this relationship was decisively, emphatically, effectively, and forever severed. Sin’s guilt and death penalty no longer have any relationship to Him or rights over Him (v. 9).

What an amazing sight! Christ not only dead, but dead to sin!

Look closer

But look a bit closer, Christian believer, exercise the eyes of faith even more, and you’ll see something else, or rather someone else there.

Who is it? It’s you!

“Our old man was crucified with him…We died with Christ” (v. 6, 8). The believer’s union with Christ in His death is a fact. But if we are to get the benefit of the fact, we need to do some “reckoning” (v. 11). That involves believing that Christ’s death to sin is identical to ours.

Just as Christ died to sin, in exactly the same way as Christ died to sin, so we are to reckon ourselves dead to sin. By virtue of our union with Christ, we have been decisively, emphatically, effectively, and forever severed from sin’s guilt and death as a penalty. They no longer have any relationship to us or rights over us (v. 9).

How much connection or relationship does sin’s guilt and death penalty have on Christ? So much connection does it have to the believer. None! Zero! Nada! Zilch!

Alive to God

But quickly travel three days forward with me and stand at the empty tomb. There you see a Christ who has risen from the dead and who is now “living unto God” (v. 10). Again this is not saying that prior to his resurrection He was not living unto God. No, He was perfect in every respect. However it indicates that his life with God, His communion with God, His connection with God was hampered, hindered, and reduced due to His relation to sin’s guilt and penalty. But once he was severed from those impediments, He resumed the life he enjoyed in perfect and uninterrupted loving fellowship with His Father that He had enjoyed from all eternity until He came to this world as the sin-bearer.

It’s a beautiful sight isn’t it? Christ living. More than that, living unto and with His Father as He had not done before in His human nature. “The life that He lives, He lives to God” (v. 10). No guilt or penalty to impede or obstruct or distance.

Look closer

But look closer again, and you will again see yourself there again.  “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.” That’s why Paul not only says  “reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin” but also “reckon yourselves to be alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 11).

Notice carefully, it’s not “Be dead to sin and alive to God!” The believer is already dead to sin and alive to God. It’s “Be convinced and persuaded of this.” Make this fact part of your faith.

And insofar as you are able to reckon this, insofar as you are convinced of this, so far you will have hope of obeying the imperatives in verses 12-13. Successful time travel to the past will result in successful sanctification in the present.

Free the Slaves

Sadly many Christians are like the older slaves after the declaration of emancipation. Even decades after the law was passed and they were legally severed from any responsibility and relationship to their masters, they found themselves still feeling obligated to them, bound to them in their minds and hearts, and fearing them, all of this damaging their present enjoyment of life. Perhaps if they could have traveled back in time and witnessed the signing of the declaration they could have lived more freely and happily.

Similarly some Christians continue to live with a paralyzing sense of guilt and a terror of God as judge and death as a penalty. But there is a solution. By faith we can travel back in time and see that we died to sin and now are alive to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. What a wonderful difference that should make to our present lives!