Every minute we are bombarded with situations where we need to choose something, from the mundane to the serious. Cornflakes or toast, coffee or tea, go to see the doctor about my recurring headaches or take a natural supplement, find a nursing home for my mother or have her come live with me, take the highway or local routes?
If we’re parents and/or married, we are usually absorbing our children’s and husbands’ decision making choices as well.
No wonder we’re tired!
How can we stop exhausting our brains?
1. Remove as much from your plate as you can. I remember my sister told me a story about her friend who was the mother of nine little kids. At dinner, she would ask them, “Do you want your food with ketchup, or without?” That was it. Minimize the choices for yourself and your family. You do not need five options for lunch. Reduce to two and move on.
2. Don’t sweat the small stuff. A few years ago I read a study on nonagenarians, those people who’ve made it until their 90’s. When interviewed, an overwhelming number of these healthy, alive older folk said, “I never worried about the little things, did I say the right thing, was it bad that I was late to my cousin’s birthday party? I just focused on enjoying the moments around me.” By simply letting small decisions remain small, we can reduce our decision fatigue AND live longer!
3. Don’t be an ostrich. Researchers have found that human beings don’t like thinking about negative things. Sounds obvious. But we often don’t realize that the issue is ‘making us feel bad’ and that we are avoiding taking action.
Take, for example, a client I had once whose elderly mother kept falling. My client kept taking her mother to the ER, patching her up, spending a few days in the hospital and then returning home, to repeat the cycle every few weeks. She wasn’t asking herself the difficult question, of “Why does my mother keep falling, and is there anything to do about it.” When she was able to brace herself, ask the difficult question, and then face the decision, the situation actually got better. Her mother actually was having mini strokes and my client needed to decide “Do I hire a full time health care aide or do I find her a nursing home?”
Although she didn’t love either of those options, my client actually felt more relieved and less stressed than she had in weeks because she faced the decision and made one. Which leads me to my next point…
4. Erase the board. Once you’ve made the decision, move on. Do not rehash, rethink, doubt, and question yourself. Remember point #2? It’s not worth it. Decision making is gray, not black and white, and the ‘right’ answer can change over time and circumstance. You make the decision with the information you have in front of you, and you embrace the future.
That is the only way.