I've been reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and last night I finished off the July chapter which focused on money. In that chapter there was a section which talked about 2 different styles of decision-making processes for buying; what Gretchen refers to as a "satisficer" as opposed to a "maximizer":
Satisficers (yes, satisficers) are those who make a decision or take action once their criteria are met. That doesn't mean they'll settle for mediocrity; their criteria can be very high, but as soon as they find the hotel, the pasta sauce, or the business card that has the qualities they want, they're satisfied. Maximizers want to make the optimal decision. Even if they see a bicycle or a backpack that meets their requirements, they can't make a decision until after they've examined every option, so they can make the best possible choice.
In reading the description of the maximizer I burst out laughing because it described me to a tee. My girlfriend had read the book before me and I asked her if she thought the same thing and she nodded vigorously as I read aloud that description. I like to make informed decisions, I like to know about the things I'm going to purchase before I purchase them. Now just said like that it doesn't sound too unreasonable, but I tend to take it to extremes. I'll spend months doing research deliberating over the pros and cons of different choices, I'll do extensive online searches for information, I'll pour over reviews, I'll try to check out each option in person (sometimes more than once). How bad can it get? A few years ago when I was thinking about buying a barbecue I got to the point where I was reading through reviews on a charcoal review site.
After I put down the book for the night I started thinking that maybe I'm a maximizer in other parts of my life too. I've been spending a lot of time trying to figure out what's been holding me back in pursuing my photography more seriously and I think this is a big part of it. I'm a geek by nature anyway so it's not too surprising that I lust over all sorts of expensive photo gear and it's really easy to say to myself that I need "the best" gear. I also spend an tremendous amount of time reading photo books, watching online training videos and listening to photography podcasts all in order to learn more about photography. While the learning is great and I've certainly expanded my knowledge I'm not applying it, am I waiting for some magic point where I "know it all"?
Taking it further, I struggle a lot with expressing what my vision is and finding my voice, both photographically and even with this site. I don't post as often on the blog because I haven't figured out what I should be talking about. I don't shoot as often as I should because I haven't figured out what I should be shooting. I don't pursue paid photography work because I don't know what paid work I should be pursuing. As a "maximizer" this becomes paralysing because I'm used to not making a decision before I've weighed all the options. What I need to do is remind myself that none of these things have to be permanent decisions and that I may just have to be willing to try something and then change directions if that doesn't work because waiting until I figure it all out may mean that I never figure it all out.
Looking online I'd say there's a lot more people like me out there. Browse any photo site or forum and you'll find tons of people spending hours upon hours of time debating every technical aspect, which camera is "better", what's the "best" lens, which camera has the lowest noise at high ISOs, etc, etc, etc. Instead of going out there and shooting with the equipment we do have we chose to sit in front of our computers in the never-ending search for that best possible choice instead of being satisfied with what we have, which more than likely meats all of our criteria.