Thoughtful Thursday: Satisficing

August 11, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday

Somewhat related to my last couple of Thoughtful Thursdays about where you live now and where you’d want to try living for a little while

I keep thinking about this article I read about the medium chill, also known as satisficing: “abandoning the quest for the ideal in favor of the good-enough.” It’s about making a choice to live with less “money/stuff/status” in exchange for more time, freedom, and happiness.

That tradeoff became especially apparent for me as we recently spent time with two of DH’s lifelong chums: a guy with a fine-paying, skilled job who chooses to work at that job part time so that he can spend more time with his kids as well as on his hobbies; and Mr. Moneybags, whose moniker says it all. One is the embodiment of satisficing; the other relentlessly accumulates wealth and prestige.

I was raised in a rich/poor family: one parent came from a poor family, and one came from a very rich family. My own upbringing was sometimes rich and sometimes poor. There was no satisficing when I was growing up: you never knew when lean times were coming, so you made the most of the fat times. My father recently spoke about the choices he made, to pursue big things even though it sometimes meant failure because working at a normal steady job would “kill his soul.”

My husband also came from a rich/poor family, but to a more moderate degree than my family. Also more moderate: the big things and the failure.

We both ended up with the good/terrible sense to choose a career that was fulfilling intellectually rather than financially.

Neither of us currently lives a satisficing life at all, working much harder than we should, but we are both pursuing accomplishment more than money. To the extent that we (esp. DH) have pursued money, to a large extent it was to pay for all of those fertility treatments and, now, sustain the results of the fertility treatments.

We both think every day about going somewhere exciting and satisficing for a few months — but only a few months. We both like having some extra money in the bank in case of emergency, or in case we suddenly need to go get some gelato — in Italy. I guess we’d both rather work very hard then relax very hard in a marvelous place than live a balanced but frugal life in a regular place.

How much do you pursue money/stuff/status? Have you made conscious decisions to follow a certain path, or just ended up there?

11 Responses to “Thoughtful Thursday: Satisficing”

  1. a Says:

    Stuff and status? No. Money? My husband pursues money like crazy. That’s why he’s been in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last year. The money is fantastic. But, our mortgage is paid off and we carry no debt.

    I have had pretty good luck in that what I enjoy doing has paid pretty well. I’m not interested in accomplishment, because in my field, it’s disingenuous. There is a specific person, who, while he has done a few really good things for fingerprint examination, is relatively inexperienced in terms of actual casework. Everyone in the field celebrates him, but his accomplishments are academic and not practical. (It’s a little hard to explain – but forensic science is involved in the conviction of the guilty and the exoneration of the innocent. The academic stuff is essentially useless in terms of doing the job better – it’s merely fluff for the court system). In terms of deliberate choice? No, I pretty much drift through life and have been fortunate. My husband is convinced that’s just how some people’s lives operates (his doesn’t. He’s totally jealous. But he had the same job as I did and couldn’t take the associated ridiculousness that goes with the relative ease and decent salary. I can take it.)

  2. Murgdan Says:

    I really have pursued ‘accomplishment’ more than anything…and the money came along with that. It’s just that for me, the accomplishment part really has always meant a lot–but I realize right now it’s not all that important. The best accomplishment to me right now is to have Gabriel look up and give me a smile and then a big kiss.

    I just finished a HUGE work project which was really a great accomplishment. For two entire hospitals. A year of work. Less than five people thanked me. And not to sound all ‘bow down to me’, but I heard those around me…above me…being thanked and congratulated when they did NOTHING on this project.

    So I’m done.

    I just accepted a local job for less pay that I think will really provide me with more personal satisfaction, more time at home, and most importantly more time earning ‘kisses’, which are the only form of praise that mean anything in the long run.

  3. Cat Says:

    Neither I nor DH pursue money/stuff/status. Just look in our closets at our rocking fashion sense. We both place high value on financial security. We both had similar upbringings and did not grow up poor. we had what we needed, but few extras. Family vacations for both of us were camping trips, which we each loved at the time, but now we know it’s because it’s really cheap to camp in a tent, even for a week.

    I do not have a degree so I always had more of a job than a career. DH has a career at a company that is the only one in this area that does what he wants to do. If he wants a different job, we would have to move at least 2 hours from here to the closest major city, or further to the next closest one. For now we’re staying put and planning to for a long while. He likes his job and his coworkers and their families are our closest friends.

    When our kids were born we knew I would stay home with them. I would never be able to make more than the cost of three kids in day care anyway, and why have them in day care for a job I didn’t even like and that wouldn’t affect our bottom line?

    I would say I’ve made more conscious decisions with my non-work path and just ‘ended up there’ with the jobs I’ve had.

  4. Elana Kahn Says:

    I don’t pursue either, really. But I think having more money would be nice. I think I’m going to get there by following my dream of becoming a midwife. Then I’ll actually have a decent salary and will be able to pay the bills and save something for my kids. The ultimate goal is to have enough to save, but I wouldn’t turn down winning the lottery. 🙂

  5. Two Kayaks Says:

    We live a very modest life. Would I love to win the lottery so we wouldn’t have to worry about money any longer? Of course. Will I work myself to the bone and spend more time on my career than with my family in order to achieve more money and status?

    Never ever. Nothing is as important to me as my children and my family and the lack of money and status has no effect on my own self worth and confidence. I know who I am and always have.

  6. This is a timely post, b/c my husband and I our on a path shift for sure. Now that he’s pretty much made it in his career, he is becoming more about the important things in life like family and quality time. I, on the other hand, have just decided to go harder or go home with my career. I think both are a response to our secondary infertility struggles. I feel like I need a win outside of family-building — he’s even more grateful for the family we have.

  7. strongblonde Says:

    hope i’m not too late. this is super timely for me. we were just on vacation with our best friends…our version of mr. moneybags. they just bought a million dollar house, are doing 100k of renovations and talked a lot about where to purchase their vacation house. but they have no time to spend with their daughter. …and it shows. it might just be their style of parenting, but they seem disconnected and seem to use their child as more of an accessory or “thing” that the have acquired rather than a real human being. maybe i’m just harsh since we JUST returned yesterday, but our lives are definitely different. on the car ride home B and i decided that we like our life. we don’t have a lot of stuff or money, but we have flexible schedules and can travel and spend time with our kids. which is important to us. especially when they’re younger. yes, our friends have 3 ipads between them (their 15 month old daughter needs her own)at, yes they have tons of “stuff” and fun gadgets, but i think that we have more. at least more of what is important to us. and i think that means that we are coasting in our careers. but i’m okay with that now. or at least trying to be.

    ..crap! did i even answer the TT question?? i guess we’ve had a combination: a little of planning/thought and a little of just ending up here.

  8. Rebecca Says:

    I choose to work part time on mental health grounds – I would go absolutely fucking nuts if I worked full time, and since I lost both my dad and grandad to suicide my mental health is precious. Sure we could use the money, but it’s not worth it to either of us.

  9. Ana Says:


    Definitely do not pursue money, but more accomplishment—i.e. the classic overachieving over-educated type.

    But, I do feel like I drifted into my grad school, career, and am continuing to drift, taking the path of least resistance. I try to keep options as wide open as possible—I am not hell bent on any specific goals, but like to be open to opportunities should they arise.
    -+My husband feels the same way about his career—not at all what he had planned for himself, just happened, and is stable and financially rewarding, so he sticks with it.

  10. St. Elsewhere Says:

    How much do you pursue money/stuff/status? Have you made conscious decisions to follow a certain path, or just ended up there?

    Between me and my husband, he pursues money harder than I. Also, he wanted to be in the Defence services but ended up in a completely different sector. He works hard and draws a good package, so that’s that.

    I never thought I would end up being a teacher, But here I am, and I am satisfied with what I draw from the job.

    I don’t think either of us are working for status primarily, but yes, stuff does attract us. Like he has his eyes on a dream car, and so he eventually wants to have enough to buy it and afford to operate it.

    My object of earning money is to remain financially independent till my last day of life. I want to have enough to cover my own needs comfortably and possibly still have some more to lie around for others.

  11. Tara (TIMO) Says:

    Nav is in the military. Yes, he chose to join but they chose what he did. He does have a bit more say now that he’s been in for 14 years but ultimately they still control his/our future for the next 6 years or so. It’s a good job. It pays well and we have great benefits for life. But you still have to deal with the government and short notice for everything. We had a possible short notice deployment scare earlier this year and it’s still rattling us 6 months later.

    I chose a field I loved and happened to fall into my dream job. But I gave it all up when we had our boys. It was an easy decision though because I had moved on from my dream job and it was becoming just work. We’re lucky that we don’t need my income (and frankly I couldn’t get paid enough here and now to cover the cost of daycare for 2) and can live a comfortable life.

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