“Our decisions, not the conditions of our lives, shape our destiny.” — Tony Robbins
Never has this philosophy been more relevant than today.
During the industrial era, we got paid to use our hands and took orders. In the knowledge era, we get paid to use our minds and take decisions.
Our decisions impact our actions which in turn, dictate how our professional and personal lives pan out. In other words, our careers, purpose and sense of happiness are directly proportional to the quality of our decisions.
Maybe you’re thinking you don’t hold a position at the workplace high enough to take decisions, that you still have to take orders to earn a living.
But you must know one thing — each time you make a choice, you take a decision.
Getting out of bed versus hitting the snooze button, choosing what to wear and eat, deciding which tasks to work on, selecting a filter for our Instagram pics… it’s remarkable how many decisions we make that go under the radar.
We take as many as 35,000 decisions each day. But all of them are not at the same level.
Not All Decisions Are Equal
In his 2015 letter to Amazon’s shareholders, Jeff Bezos explained that decisions are of two types.
- Type-1 or mission-critical, high-impact choices that influence the larger strategy. At a personal level, these include choosing your next project or job, investing in new skills to stay relevant, and bringing up your child.
- Type-2, or the lower stakes choices that we can easily reverse. Like deciding what to wear, reading through trails of FYI emails, or choosing between a pizza or pasta for lunch.
We take more Type-2 decisions than Type-1. Logically, it makes sense too. After all, who in their right minds wants their minds to do some heavy-lifting every day?
But here’s a critical point we should pay close attention to, but often don’t.
Like our physical muscles, our willpower — the muscle we use to make decisions — gets tired each time we use it. Consequently, our mental bandwidth gets exhausted and we suffer from decision fatigue.
Decision fatigue affects us at various levels.
At a personal level, this includes buyers’ remorse, abandoning a diet, and procrastinating.
But it also affects other people who have to bear the brunt of our fatigue, or crimes of passion.
Sometimes, decision fatigue can have devastating consequences, like a crisis that could’ve been avoided or a poor decision that wipes out someone’s entire savings.
The key is to minimize the number of times we use our willpower. This makes us take better decisions and improve the quality of our lives.
Here are three simple yet powerful steps you can take to do the same.
1. Most Important Thing First
Type-2 decisions demand the lion’s share of our attention because they feel important at the moment and give us the illusion of being more productive. In the process, we suffer when it comes to taking Type-1 decisions.
But successful people do the opposite. They prioritize critical, high-impact decisions and work on the most important tasks when their minds are fresh.
If you’re struggling to figure out what’s important, here’s a simple hack: List down the items on your to-do and identify the one that makes you most uncomfortable. That’s your most important task.
“What you’re afraid of is a clear indicator of the next thing you need to do.” — Grant Cardone
2. Automate Low-Level Decisions
To preserve our willpower and mental bandwidth, we must automate decisions of low importance.
Minimizing choices on regular activities is an example of automating low-level decisions. For instance, Mark Zuckerberg and Barrack Obama wear the same outfit every day.
You can apply this concept to various facets of your life. For instance, you can:
- Decide what you’ll eat for breakfast on each day of the week on Sunday.
- Decide what you want to wear to work on each day of the week on Sunday.
- Create a checklist for the items you need to during business trips and use it when you pack.
When you don’t reinvent the wheel every day, you save energy for important decisions during the day.
3. Manage Your Physical Health
It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver. — Mahatma Gandhi
Various researches have shown how people who routinely exercise start eating better, become more and patient and feel less stressed.
In other words, people who take care of their health take better decisions.
Physical exercise of any form — walking, running, swimming, hitting the gym — daily can make you enjoy the benefits mentioned above. You also avoid making poor decisions when you feel hangry.
Life is a culmination of decisions. Who you are today is a result of the decisions you took so far. The decisions you make from now on will decide where you go from here.
Your abilities are not carved in stone, nor can you take effective decisions all the time (even the most successful people cannot do it).
But you can tweak your lifestyle to make progress at what truly matters by improving the quality of your decisions.
A version of this article originally appeared on k:lib.