I foresee some drastic and exciting changes in my life over the next year and thought, what better way to document them than by creating the 1,023,349,35th blog on the Internet! Really though, who doesn't document their life electronically? Between Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, Twitter and of course the good 'ole blogosphere, I know very few who aren't connected on some platform. Which, is a perfect segue into the "what" of this particular online presence of mine. The copious amounts of social media is something that I enjoy, along with my addiction to pop culture, shopping, and just general "stuff", but lately I've began to thoroughly question whether all of these options that I have and choices that I make, actually take away from my life, instead of the basic intention of adding value to it? The more things I begin to question, the more questions I have, which I plan on writing about as a therapeutic outlet more than anything.
As I write this, my inbox indicator sounded, informing me that my latest online purchase order has shipped. Another $122 spent online shopping. I'm sure I'll enjoy my new lipstick and latest fad perfume scent, however was the amount of time, money and brainpower it took to place the order actually worth it? That's what I would really like to figure out. My hypothesis, is that no, it wasn't worth it, it never really is, and making excessive amounts of choices on frivolous and unimportant issues does not add value, moreover, it clutters your mind and drains your energy.
In an interview with Barack Obama, he tells Michael Lewis of Vanity Fair "I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing because I have too many other decisions to make". I think that this is quite interesting, and appreciate that the president prefers to allocate his decision-making abilities to matters of more importance than his shirt colour.
But wait; is there really such a thing as running out of decision capabilities? Apparently, so! The term decision fatigue was coined by a social psychologist named Roy F. Baumeister, whos experiments demonstrated that there is a finite store of mental energy for exerting self-control. Willpower turned out to be more than a folk concept or a metaphor. It really is a form of mental energy that could be exhausted. An example he used was a couple registering for wedding gifts and by the end of the day, they had made so many decisions, the wife to be said her partner could talk her into anything!
Any decision, whether it’s what pants to buy or whether to start a war, can be broken down into what psychologists call the Rubicon model of action phases, in honour of the river that separated Italy from the Roman province of Gaul. When Caesar reached it in 49 B.C., on his way home after conquering the Gauls, he knew that a general returning to Rome was forbidden to take his legions across the river with him, lest it be considered an invasion of Rome. Waiting on the Gaul side of the river, he was in the “predecisional phase” as he contemplated the risks and benefits of starting a civil war. Then he stopped calculating and crossed the Rubicon, reaching the “postdecisional phase,” which Caesar defined much more felicitously: “The die is cast.”
To sum it up, crossing the Rubicon, or making the decision is actually the most tiring part and people without Caesar’s willpower are more likely to stay put. Part of the resistance against making decisions comes from our fear of giving up options. The word “decide” shares an etymological root with “homicide,” the Latin word “caedere,” meaning “to cut down” or “to kill,” and that loss looms especially large when decision fatigue sets in.
Shopping is especially tiring because there are just so many trade-offs that one has to consider.
Once you’re mentally depleted, you become reluctant to make trade-offs, which involve a particularly advanced and taxing form of decision making. In the rest of the animal kingdom, there aren’t a lot of protracted negotiations between predators and prey. To compromise is a complex human ability and therefore one of the first to decline when willpower is depleted. You become what researchers call a cognitive miser, hoarding your energy. If you’re shopping, you’re liable to look at only one dimension, like price: just give me the cheapest. Or you indulge yourself by looking at quality: I want the very best (an especially easy strategy if someone else is paying). Decision fatigue leaves you vulnerable to marketers who know how to time their sales, as Jonathan Levav, the Stanford professor, demonstrated in experiments involving tailored suits and new cars.
Interesting to consider is the effect that the decision making process has on people in poverty. The less money one has, the more important each purchasing decision is that they make, and because their financial situation forces them to make so many trade-offs, they have less willpower to devote to school, work and other activities that might get them into the middle class.
In one study, he found that when the poor and the rich go shopping, the poor are much more likely to eat during the shopping trip. This might seem like confirmation of their weak character — after all, they could presumably save money and improve their nutrition by eating meals at home instead of buying ready-to-eat snacks like Cinnabons, which contribute to the higher rate of obesity among the poor. But if a trip to the supermarket induces more decision fatigue in the poor than in the rich — because each purchase requires more mental trade-offs — by the time they reach the cash register, they’ll have less willpower left to resist the Mars bars and Skittles. Not for nothing are these items called impulse purchases.
Baumeister states "people with the best self-control are the ones who structure their lives so as to conserve willpower (and) they establish habits that eliminate the mental effort of making choices".
With this in mind, I would like to try to de-clutter and simplify my life one category, one item, and one option at a time, thus reducing the amount of decisions I have to make in my life and improving the overall quality of those decisions that I do make! Along the way, I intend to encourage positivity and gratitude and will dedicate this online space to fruitful ideas and inspirational living, which are the primary components of my perpetual daydreams and the intangible gears churning in my head.
Thanks for reading my first post of the Emily likes to ramble on so adventure. I hope you tune in again real soon!
Until next time,
Until next time,