On the Shoulders of Giants

by Brian SperonelloIcon

The Art of Pre-Made Decisions

I recently got into a discussion about how I feel my highly regimented dietary and lifestyle choices impact me. Ironically, I said that having a strict routine actually made my life feel easier and less stressful, instead of feeling restricted like you would expect. I would attribute this in large part to the fact that the way I have my life organized means I don't have to think all the time.

While I haven't read it yet, the book The Paradox of Choice has been cited in a number of other books I've read. The Paradox of Choice says that making decisions is a stressful process for people, and the more options a person has the more stressful it becomes. Having a wide range of choices increases the pressure we feel to make a perfect decision, since more options means there is a better chance for us to find the perfect fit. It also increases the opportunity for buyer's remorse, since there will be more items for us to think back on and wonder "Would I have been better off picking that one instead?"

Humans are exposed to more options, and have to make more choices, today than ever before. 48 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every few minutes. You can carry tens of thousands of songs around with you in the palm of your hand. All of these choices are overwhelming us. This is why I feel having a strict routine for myself is actually liberating — all of my decisions are pre-made.

Take, for example, my thought process when choosing food. The first question is, "Is it Saturday?" If yes, I eat whatever I want and don't feel the least bit guilty about it. If no, I eat a meal that conforms to the Slow Carb Diet. Problem solved.

Compare this to the person who goes out to eat with no principles to guide her. She wonders whether or not she can afford to eat an unhealthy meal, because she has to go to the beach this coming weekend. Even though the fried calamari looks delicious, maybe she should get something healthy instead. Well, what does "healthy" mean? No carbohydrates? Lots of fruits and vegetables? High in protein? Vegan? As you can see, there are far more places to drive yourself crazy during the decision making process this way than there are if you've come up with a set of rules for yourself ahead of time.

This is where the art of pre-made decisions comes into play. If you spend a small amount of time in advance determining your objectives and the lifestyle choices it will take to get you there, you will already know which path you're going to take whenever you encounter a situation that would have normally required you to make a decision on the spot. It's like putting your life on auto-pilot. Rather than deal with the hassles that come from navigating life on your own; setup a system that runs everything for you so you can focus your attention on bigger things.


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