Choose Wisely – A new series on how the littlest choices can have a huge impact on our willpower, productivity, and decision-making energy.
Do you ever feel like you must have almost no will power what-so-ever? I feel that way some afternoons. I can try and try all day long to make good, healthy, positive choices, only to completely blow it on some kind of reckless decision in the afternoon. I choose an unhealthy snack, or I blow off my planned afternoon exercise or chores in favor of watching a few minutes of TV. This kind of lack of willpower late in the day happens to me all the time. Up until now, I just thought I was weak and there was nothing I could do about it except try harder. (Which never worked, by the way!)
Last week, two things happened back to back that really got my mind rolling in another direction. Suddenly it’s not just about trying harder. It’s about CHOOSING WISELY.
The first thing was one of those ‘man-I-totally-blew-it-and-I-KNOW-better’ moments. My friend, Aubrey, and I have a pact going where we support and encourage each other. That means confessing when we screw up. I screwed up. So, I emailed her. I confessed. I told her how I fought against it, knew it was wrong, knew it was because of stress, but still ended up going through the drive thru eating really, really nasty junk food. Her reply was:
“Why do you think it is that we KNOW what we are eating is not helping and we KNOW that we are doing it to cope with stress, and we DO IT anyway? I feel like I have an emotional “over ride” button that just hits itself when I am stressed allowing myself to eat anything.”
That question really struck me, and it kept rolling around in my head. Why is it that we do that? Even when we consciously try so hard not to? Hmmm….
Fast forward to the next day, and I saw a tweet from Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, about an article on “decision making fatigue”. I clicked through to the NY Times website, and went to read the article. To sum up the 10 page article in just a few short sentences: Willpower is a kind of mental energy that can be depleted. Making decisions all day long (even easy ones) depletes that mental energy, and leaves you drained. Then, when you’re faced with making another decision, you either make a reckless choice or you make no choice at all-to avoid having to decide.
SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!
That is exactly what happens to me. Oh.My.Gosh. The more I read of the article, the more my mind was jumping up and down yelling, “That’s ME! That’s ME!!”. I wanted to dance around shouting “Eureka! I have found it!” I can’t stop thinking about it, and the ideas about how to apply this in real life are pouring out of my head almost faster than I can jot them down. Ideas on how to make things easier, simpler, and help eliminate some of those reckless choices. Ways to “conserve” mental energy & willpower for when it’s really needed.
In fact, there are so many ideas, so many areas of life to apply this, that I plan to make this a whole series of posts. We’ll see where it takes us. I’m very excited about it. I hope you’ll stop back by next Tuesday for more on what researchers have identified as “decision making fatigue” and how it works. Once you understand what’s happening, you can take some really easy steps to change it, and I will be sharing practical tips that you can use in various different areas of your life.
Let’s call it the Choose Wisely Adventure. I’ll be the guinea pig- treating willpower as a limited resource- a kind of mental energy that can be drained. Check back for practical ways to apply ‘Choosing Wisely’ to:
- Establishing simple family routines
- Getting kids ready for school in the morning
- Healthy Eating Habits
- House cleaning & chores
- Menu planning
- Kids homework & chores
- Blogging & creative work
- Grocery shopping
- Planning ahead
- Breakfast and morning time