Have you heard the talk about decision fatigue? It can be one of the keys to our success (or lack thereof) in every area of life. Pretty impressive, if you ask me. Basically, the thinking is that every decision we make throughout the day—and we’re making as many as 35,000—exhausts our energy to make the ones that follow.
By day’s end, our decision-making skills are nominal, to say the least. Enter the quart of Haagen Dazs ice cream we eat right before bedtime. It seems like a good idea because we’re too tired to think straight.Our job is to set up the systems and construct the boundaries to guide us to and through the life we’d most like to live. The proverbial line in the sand takes everything else off the table. Even the midnight Haagen Dazs. Click To Tweet
To remedy decision fatigue, some people eat the same breakfast or wear the same type of clothing day after day. They plan meals for the week or put structures in place to eliminate as many decisions as possible. They save their decision-making powers for more important things, like what kind of beer they’ll order at the craft brewery. (Come on now, I’m kidding. Mostly.)
Anyway, the whole process of decision-making reminded me of a recent dinner conversation I had with Trainer Joe (my healthy living guru) and his wife. The conversation came around to the notion of just-a-little versus all-or-nothing thinking, the importance of boundaries in our lives, and how they can help us reach for the things we most want in life.
Abstinence over moderation
Joe mentioned a quote from St. Augustine, that great patron saint of brewers (who could’ve seen that coming), printers, theologians, and sore eyes (which is another post entirely). St. Augustine had this to say:
“Complete abstinence is easier than perfect moderation.”
Isn’t that the truth.
It’s amazing how tiring—and fattening—just-a-little thinking can be. Phrases like, “just a couple bites of cake,” or “just a handful of M&Ms,” can single-handedly can crush best-laid plan, because they require us to make decisions. A couple as in two or a couple as in a few? A child’s handful or a 7-foot-tall man’s handful? And just like that, we’re sprawled out on the couch, worn down from decision fatigue, holding an empty bag of M&Ms and unable to complete a full sentence.
When we set boundaries, like no chocolate for 30 days for example, we eliminate all decision making where chocolate is concerned—including that handful of M&Ms.
You’re probably starting to see how decision elimination and abstinence can work in tandem, and how we could use them to our advantage in every area of life. Our job is to set up the systems and construct the boundaries to guide us to and through the life we’d most like to live. The proverbial line in the sand takes everything else off the table. Even the midnight Haagen Dazs.
Why does it have to be so hard?
At this point, you may be wondering why I’m promoting all these limits. Maybe it seems like I’m focusing on the negative or making life too hard. Perhaps you’re wondering if successful living—dare I say, remarkable living—is best left to the patron saint of late night snacking.
“That’s right, Beth. I am. I thought we were going to the brewery.”
Bear with me. It’s not about depriving yourself. It’s about removing—annihilating—the obstacles in your way. Consider the mantra made legendary by many a Grecian army:
“Burn the boats as you storm the island.”
In other words, do everything you can to set yourself up for success. Instead of spending time focusing on backup plans, remove the escape route. Take away the excuses and the second guesses and distractions (squirrel!) that could get in the way of what you really want to create in your day and your life.
Have a goal you want to meet, a project you want to create, or a few pounds you’d like to drop?
- Start by making decisions that matter in the grand scheme of things, and decide on that project outline instead of deciding what’s for lunch.
- Create boundaries and eliminate temptations.
- Give yourself every reason to succeed and stop settling for less than you want.
Is it really that easy?
No. But it is that simple—and potentially satisfying if you’re willing to see it through. Because once you’ve accomplished what you set out to do and you’re standing on shore watching the boats burn, all your efforts—including the pass on the handful of M&Ms—will have been worth it. Granted, you’ll probably need a ride home since you burned the boat, but that’s okay. Give me a call and I’ll pick you up. We can swing by the brewery on our way home.