A long time ago was I was teaching a stress management program at the local college. It was so long ago that I can’t possibly find my notes and my resources but I distinctly remember finding, during my research, information about how making decision is a form of stress and that we have a sort of limit on how many we can make without burning out. I jumped right on that because I saw it play out in my own life. That’s why I had problems with filing–all those papers, all that deciding which file they go in!
At the time I was a struggling single parent and I needed to count every penny. So it was foolish of me to come home after a day of work and order out or take my son to McDonalds and not just because of the cost. After learning about the detrimental effects of too many decisions, I came up with what turned out to be a great plan. Every month, on a Sunday, my least decision-heavy day, I would create a meal plan for the month and do the shopping. So that I wouldn’t end up going to the store to pick up bread and milk and then spend ridiculous amounts on frozen pizza or ice cream, I started having my milk and bread delivered–I told you it was a long time ago. In retrospect I am wondering if we ever ate fresh vegetables back then or did we just eat them in the first week of the month and then stick to frozen or canned? Beats me–it was a long time ago.
Anyway, it worked. Not only did I save a great deal of money but I lost weight because I ate only what I had planned. It was a great idea and I should have carried it on.
Perhaps I’ll reinstate it, without the milk and bread delivery of course. Because it turns out that more recent research backs up what I believed back then.
The other day I was listening to Darren Hardy, publisher of Success Magazine, interview Dr. Daniel Amen. You may have seen Dr. Amen on one of his PBS shows about how the brain works. Or perhaps you’ve read one of his books. In this particular interview, he mentioned that making too many decisions in a day can erode your will power.
It makes sense to me–after all, I’ve already tested it. If you’ve ever watched that horrendous reality tv show, Hoarders-Buried Alive, you’ve seen how people get more and more resistant and weepy as the day goes on. Having to make all those seemingly small decisions about what to throw out and what to keep is eroding their ability to make those decisions and their will power.
So what does this mean to us? Well if you are on the road to your ideal life, you are probably making some small but powerful decisions every day that determine where ultimately you will end up. What to eat for breakfast–a donut or an omelet? Should I go to the gym or turn off the alarm and turn over? I want a clear decluttered home, should I toss out that old rug in the back hall that I don’t really like that much? I want to wear only clothes in perfect condition–do I really want to throw on that old stained t-shirt to go to the store? Or should I toss it and move me closer to my ideal day? Should I turn off the tv and spend an hour before bed reading a good book that will stretch my mind? And those are only the little decisions.
What about the big ones? Should I start that business? Should I quit my job and go it alone? Should I speak my truth and risk ending a job or a relationship? Should I move? And where should I move to?
I suggest that you recognize the toll that decisions can make on you and be wary of making the big ones when you’re already perhaps at your limit for the day.
Try to automate some things so that they don’t require a conscious decision.
Set up systems so that you get a lot of decisions over and done with on a fairly quiet day–the way I did with my menu.
If you are doing some job that requires many many decisions, like decluttering, perhaps set up clear irrefutable guidelines that make the actual choice clearer and easier.
Do you have any other ideas for maximizing your ability to make good decisions and not falling prey to deminished will power and choice?