Decision fatigue?

Soaked, exhausted but happy at Old Harry, Dorset

I’ve been away from this blog for quite a few days and there’s so much I want to write about – the joys of camping, of watching the stars, of swimming off rocks in very cold water, of cycling along ridges towards the sea, of listening to live music, of friendships and relationships, of fear, pain, perfectionism, faith and grace. It’s amazing how much can go through my head in a week or so!

But I have very little time to write as I’m off again for a few more days. I’m going on a nostalgia trip, taking my Mum back to the Welsh seaside town we used to holiday at every summer when I was little. I’m not sure quite what will happen this week – it’s been a long time since I’ve gone on holiday with my Mum – but it feels like a significant time.

It’s interesting how life is so cyclical, how roles get reversed. Our parents take us on holiday for years and then, eventually, we feel prompted to return the favour. They look after us when we’re vulnerable and then we return that favour too. It’s also interesting how we return to our roots – or at least I do. I spent my 20s and 30s travelling as far away as I possibly could and living on other sides of the globe. And here I am at 40, choosing to spend a week in a caravan in North Wales with my Mum.

But before I go, I thought I’d do a quick post as I feel I’ve abandoned my blog for a rather long time and I’m hoping for a computer-free week. I’m in a bit of a hurry to get moving, though, so here’s one I prepared earlier. I wrote most of this post just before my Dorset camping and cycling trip last week but ran out of time to finish it and decided it was more important to do my packing than write my blog. But here’s the finished version:

I claim no credit for today’s post. The idea comes from an excellent New York Times article that a friend sent me: Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue? It’s a long and very well-written piece so I’m thinking my job is done. But in case you don’t get to read it all, I’ll point out a few highlights. The crux of it is that the more decisions we have to make, the more tired and jaded we become. This means a decision made late in the day or on the back of a bunch of others may not be well thought out. We’ll either make an impulsive decision, which may not prove the right thing to do, or we’ll make no decision at all and stick with the status quo, which might not be the right thing either.

The article also points out that one of the reasons we struggle with decisions (I always have) is because choosing one thing means giving up another. The word “decide”, the article says, shares an etymological root with “homicide.” The root is the Latin word “caedere,” meaning “to cut down” or “to kill.” The sense of loss we feel when we choose one thing over another grows as decision fatigue sets in. Of course, my perfectionism also gets in my way when I’m trying to make a decision. I don’t like making mistakes and I set my standards very high, painfully high sometimes, so I struggle to know which path is the “right” one and find it difficult to comprehend there might not be any one “right” answer.

The article also says some interesting stuff about eating, dieting and willpower. Now, I’m not a fan of dieting but I’ve had plenty of experience of it over the years and I understand that the more we resist something the more we want it and the more sugar we eat, the more we crave it.

But I particularly like the article’s conclusion and it’s something I’ve written about before on this blog – the importance of forming good habits: “People with the best self-control are the ones who structure their lives so as to conserve willpower,” the article says. “They don’t schedule endless back-to-back meetings. They avoid temptations like all-you-can-eat buffets, and they establish habits that eliminate the mental effort of making choices. Instead of deciding every morning whether or not to force themselves to exercise, they set up regular appointments to work out with a friend. Instead of counting on willpower to remain robust all day, they conserve it so that it’s available for emergencies and important decisions.”

I hope you get a chance to read the full piece and get something from it. It really got me thinking. There’s so much more I’d like to write but my packing, once again, awaits. I’m realising that writing from my heart is one of the many ways I connect to myself, to my thoughts and feelings, and I’ve missed it this past week. But there are other ways I can connect to myself – prayer and meditation are key ones – and I’ve been neglecting both those practices. For some reason, I didn’t think morning meditation was compatible with camping. Maybe it’ll be easier in a caravan.

 

 

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