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Why We Make Bad Decisions

We live in the free market. That means there is no shortage of choices.

And because of that we often choose the wrong thing: We choose icecream over veggies, partying over sleep, new pair of sneaks over paying down your bills. Especially on Friday nights, we choose “comfort foods” and movies.

Why do we do what we do, when we KNOW these decisions are bad ones. It’s not because we hate ourselves; we’re just tired of making decisions.

Our parents called this “willpower”: this is the ability to make those hard decisions and stick to it. But as Dan Ariely of Duke University writes in “Understanding Ego Depletion,“ we have limited reserves of willpower. We use up those reserves regularly. On Monday morning we have plenty, so we get up early, go for a walk and pack a healthy lunch. But by Friday, we’re calling Doritos breakfast.

“Decision fatigue” is a new idea, but it’s very real. We make more decisions than our ancestors ever did: They got up at six because the cows were hungry. They ate oatmeal for breakfast because there wasn’t anything else. They tended their garden because that’s what everyone did. And they were probably happier for it.

The people under the most pressure in the business world will usually take steps 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’d dipped into the well of willpower when choosing his cereal, that would leave less in the reserves for later when the BIG decisions came up.

What is the best way to avoid depleting our willpower? Habits are key.

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.

We try to shift as many decisions off our plate as possible. And when we make a decision, we don’t often second-guess it, because that’s exhausting. It really IS better to make fast decisions and correct your errors later than to hem and haw. Living with a decision usually isn’t hard; making the decision is the most challenging.

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. Do a four-week challenge and follow the simple directions. Show up to a CrossFit class. Prepare your meals for the week on Sunday, when you’re fresh and rested. Work on following someone else’s plan for you until the habits are entrenched. Protect your ego and save your willpower for dealing with your boss.

Your workouts don’t have to be perfect every day. You don’t have to invent a new way of anything. You can avoid paralysis by analysis. Lean on a coach; they will tell you what to do and how to do it, and then you can go make better decisions outside the gym.

The Crew at Aero Health and Fitness

Inspiration provided by Chris Cooper at Catalystgym.com

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