In Kitchen Table Wisdom, Dr. Remen says that a trip to the grocery store might tell us everything we need to know about our lives.

She said that Jung would often ask his clients what activity they were engaged in right before leaving for their appointment with him.

His theory was that analyzing an everyday action like that told him volumes about the person.

I thought of this while reading Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough by Lori Gottlieb.

Some of the key problems in today’s dating and marriage culture can be discovered by examining how one shops, she says.

She cites sociologist Barry Schwartz’s theory that people are either maximizers or satisficers.

A maximizer is someone who is never satisfied and constantly second-guesses their decisions.

When a maximizer shops for a new sweater, for example, she has to explore all the options and spend eons in the changing room trying on multiple sweaters.

If she finds something she likes a lot and fits well she hesitates. It occurs to her that maybe the store across town has the exact style she wants instead or might have a better deal.  So off she goes, continuing her never-ending quest for the perfect sweater.

A satisficer breezes into a store and finds a sweater that mostly matches her criteria. It might be a bit more expensive than she was prepared to pay, or perhaps it’s not be the precise shade of green she wanted, but she buys it, maybe without even trying it on first (gasp!), and moves on with her life.

Not surprisingly, maximizer tendencies in a culture that instructs us to approach everything like a shopping excursion can be problematic, even for satisficers.

This shopping mentality and constant striving for the best means we often don’t notice and appreciate what’s right in front of us already.

Lori shared a story about a man she refused to date at first because he wore bow ties. But when her dating coach made her realize how ridiculous it was to rule a man out based on that one thing, she relented.

After several dates the man told her how his late grandfather had a huge bow tie collection. He looked up to his grandfather as a kid and felt so honored when he found out that he had inherited the bow tie collection after his grandfather died. The bow ties remind him of the good traits in his grandfather that he hopes to emulate and that’s why he wears them.

Her attitude about bow ties abruptly changed, of course. If she had persisted in her maximizer shopping mentality she never would have had the opportunity to hear this cool story.

As Dr. Remen says, “Joy is a willingness to accept the whole and show up to meet with whatever is there.” So I guess it’s best to show up rather than to shop.

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Filed under: Kitchen Table Wisdom (the book)Stories/Storytelling

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