Decision Fatigue

A dear friend recently quoted Robert Frost’s famous line to me.

“Two roads diverged in the wood..”

If only there were just two roads. (Yes, I understand and appreciate the beauty of the poetic metaphor. Don’t get sidetracked.)

Either/or is the easiest decision ever. Especially if you are a well seasoned decision maker with a high tolerance for being wrong.

What’s far harder in this crazy modern world is that there are generally a far greater number of choices when considering how to move forward. This applies to every decisions up to and including the largest life decisions.

The challenge is familiar to everyone and there are even studies that have investigated this problem. Just read Barry Schwartz in the best selling The Paradox of Choice if you need to learn more.
The other day I simply could not make a single decision to save my life. Go inside or outside? Eat in or go out? Take a shower today or tomorrow? Really, every decision felt like too much.  I have embraced a truly minimalist lifestyle so my daily life choices are stripped down to essentials. Do I stream in bed or at the table? Coffee or tea? I only have one mug for each so I don’t even have to choose drink ware!

My decision engine had just shut itself off. Not a good thing when starting a business involves making more daily choices than anything else I’ve ever done.

Decision making is actually a strength for me. To have it just shut down is a new experience. It’s taken days of just resting and streaming some good Amazon and Netflix original series, to restart it. (I can make recommendations!)

I can now understand why I could never really imagine starting my own business before now. It took leaving my job and taking a year off to get back my ability to think creatively. But even a well rested brain gets overwhelmed by too many choices. To get anything done requires a willingness to identify fatigue before it knocks you out for days. Whether it is decision fatigue or creativity burnout, it can lead down the road to burnout or to a more debilitating depression.

Then I remind myself that I’ve already chosen the road less travelled. Now the decisions get harder.

I think Mr. Frost lacked ambition.

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