We live in the free market. That means an abundance of choice.
It also means we often choose the wrong thing: We choose cookies over kale, parties over sleep, too much wine over water. Especially on Friday nights, we choose “comfort foods” and Netflix.
We KNOW these decisions are bad ones, but we make them anyway. And it’s not because we hate ourselves; we’re just tired of making decisions. And it’s killing our ability to move forward with any progress when trying to make change, like starting a new workout program or diet.
Our parents called this “willpower”: the ability to make tough decisions and stick to them. But as Benjamin Hardy, Psychology Ph.D & author, talks about in his TedX Talk, we have limited reserves of willpower. We use up those reserves regularly. On Monday morning we have plenty, so we get up early, get in our workout and pack a healthy lunch. By Friday, we’re eating doughnuts and pizza… for breakfast.
Decision fatigue is very real. The term is new, but we all know and understand the concept. We live in a world where we have to make daily decisions – more than our ancestors ever had to! They got up at 6am because the cows were hungry. They ate oatmeal for breakfast because it’s all they had and there were no grocery stores nearby. The kids played outside after school because it was the only option. And they were probably happier for it.
The most successful people are the ones who take action to limit the number of decisions they have to make each day. Steve Jobs wore the same outfit and ate the same breakfast every day. If he chose to use some of his willpower when choosing breakfast, that would leave less willpower for later when the BIG, meaningful decisions come up.
How do we avoid burning out our willpower?
Waking up at the same time every day.
Eating the same breakfast every day.
Going to the gym at the same time every day.
Letting someone else choose our workouts.
I aim to off-load as many decisions from my plate as possible. And when I make a decision, I often don’t second-guess it, because that’s exhausting. Sometimes Done is better than Perfect. And being able to make quick decisions and correct any errors later is better than getting stuck in “paralysis by analysis” mode. Living with a decision usually isn’t hard; making the decision is hard.
If you’re starting to exercise more or fixing your diet after a rough couple of weeks, do everything you can to minimize the decisions you have to make. Hire a personal trainer and follow directions. Reserve then show up to a CrossFit class. Make your meals on Sunday, when you’re fresh and rested. Follow someone else’s plan for you until the habits are entrenched. Save your willpower for BIG decisions.
Your workouts don’t have to be perfect every day. You don’t have to invent a new diet. All EDX members get a Nutrition Portal when they join with a step-by-step guide to make these changes easier. They get a Coach who tells them exactly what to do and when, and it makes it easier to stick with it.
You can avoid paralysis by analysis, and action beats intention any day.
Interested in living your best life? Book a Free No Sweat Intro to meet with a Coach and let us help you create a plan to reach your goals!
This blog post is inspired with permission by Chris Cooper at Catalyst Gym.