Choice is Voluntary

We all have busy lives – having to make decisions how best to juggle the various demands on us from jobs, family and friends.

Barack Obama’s day is busier than most, and typically involves an endless stream of decisions and choices.

All of us, Barack included, can become tired and jaded by the mental and emotional effort of having to make so many choices, affecting our judgement, mood, and happiness. Psychologists use the phrases ‘choice fatigue’ or decision fatigue to describe this effect, and studies have shown we all tend to make poorer, less logical decisions when overburdened by choices and options, or when we are mentally exhausted from having made too many.

It’s a condition that can have significant consequences when applied to doctors, High Court Judges or stock-market traders, but equally affects us all – shoppers and dieters included !

Barack Obama limits his decision fatigue by delegating the more mundane decisions to other people. In an interview he recently said “I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing, because I have too many other decisions to make”.

We all like the freedom to make choices, but sometimes all these choices combine to make life draining. Endless possibility can easily seem a bit daunting, as any writer (or blogger) faced with a blank screen knows !

Sometimes we just want the relief of being told what to do . . . sound familiar ?

We can make life easier on ourselves by automating many of the routine decisions of daily life (from shopping lists to meal planning), taking decisions in batches, and just not ‘sweating the small stuff’ (spending energy worrying about things that don’t really matter). You never know, by only worrying about the big decisions you might enough emotional energy to do some more of all that good stuff you keep putting off.

If you’re someone who is full of good intentions, but never gets round to them because you’re bogged down in other stuff, or is always planning the next big thing, but somehow gets sidetracked and never gets started, then feel free to treat the rest of this post as a FIRM TO-DO LIST for the week, rather than a list of possible options.

1 - Visit the Give Blood website, type in your postcode and a few details and arrange an appointment to donate blood. It’ll take just a couple of minutes and you can do it now sat in your chair, and you will help save someone’s life.

2 - Visit the They Work for You website, type in your postcode to find your MP’s contact details and email address. Take ten minutes to participate in our democracy and send a short few line email to your MP to let them know you’re thoughts on whatever’s on your mind – from energy policy and climate commitments, the overseas aid budget, sustainable development and the green belt, the badger cull, the economy, or any pressing local issues.

3 - Next time your out shopping, make an effort to drop into a few charity shops and look through the clothes, rather than your usual stores. If you’re not already in the habit of buying used clothes from charity shops, try giving it a go, even if just once, and see how you get on – it benefits the charity, recycles unwanted items, avoids the production of so much ‘new stuff’, and saves  you money you can put to other use.

4 - Give something to a stranger today. It might be a few pounds online to a charity, a few dollars lent to a developing world entrepreneur, or a few cans of food to your local food bank.

5 - When you get chance make a list of DVDs, CDs, books, tools or anything else that you would be willing to lend to someone, and take it into work. Encourage your colleagues to add their ‘stuff’ to the list, and develop a mini-sharing co-operative. It’s might avoid having to buy quite so much stuff, and you’ll get to know all your colleagues a lot better in the process.

The video on the left is the serious stuff, the one on the right just a bit of fun.

I know, it’s another choice . . . sorry.


Photo by o5com via Flickr

RELATED ARTICLES – Be Your Own Choice ArchitectGood BehaviourThe Art of Giving Up,  It IS the Winning and Losing that Matters

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