Reframing for Satisfaction
Amy was a woman of precise habits and particular tastes. Among her many specific preferences, she cherished one above all: maintaining her home at a perfect temperature of precisely 67 degrees Fahrenheit. She believed this was the pinnacle of comfort, the only condition under which she could truly relax and feel at peace.
Yet, her old, creaky house, built in the late 19th century, was her sanctuary. It was her pride and joy. She’d spent years restoring it, and it was brimming with character and memories. However, the aging bones of her beloved home often struggled against the whims of nature, and the HVAC system, a relic of bygone days, could barely keep up. Despite all of her efforts, she was never satisfied. Maintaining her ideal home temperature seemed impossible.
On a particularly unruly spring day, a sudden storm knocked out the power, leaving Amy's HVAC system lifeless and drifting to the ambient temperature of 55 degrees outside. As the temperature drifted away, so did her patience, leaving her in a state of distress. Amidst this turmoil, Amy received a visit from an old friend, Herbert, who found her amidst a sea of blankets and discontent.
Herbert listened to Amy's woes with a gentle smile, then shared his journey from frustration to contentment. “You can find contentment either by finding optimum solutions for a simplified world or by finding satisfactory solutions for a more realistic world.”1
Moved by Herbert’s words, Amy faced a pivotal choice: continue her battle against the inevitable or embrace a broader perspective of comfort. With the power still out, the house continued to cool well below her once sacrosanct threshold. She took a deep breath and smiled. Instead of despair, Amy felt an unexpected calm. She looked at Herbert and said, “Let’s get a fire going in the fireplace.” For the first time in years, she felt at peace, not in spite of the imperfection but because of it.
In the following days, Amy began experimenting with living outside her rigid expectations. She adjusted her definition of comfort to include a range of temperatures and even which parts of the home she worried about keeping comfortable. The old house, with its creaks and drafts, no longer seemed an adversary but a companion in her journey towards contentment.
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By letting go of her insistence on a single definition of comfort, she not only alleviated her own frustrations but also found a deeper appreciation for the imperfect beauty of life.
This is paraphrased from the real Herbert Simon, who said this in a Nobel Prize acceptance speech regarding satisficing.