Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Decision Trap and Creativity

Every day we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make the right decisions.  Eat healthy, save money, say the right thing.  As women we face the unrealistic societal expectation expressed by my boss' favorite comedian of going to work, taking care of the kids, and then coming home to cook a great meal, and be multiorgasmic.  Life is a series of decisions, and the unrelenting pressure we place on ourselves to make the best ones.
At least most life decisions are easier
than  solving this glittery rubik's cube
Yet research indicates the human brain eventually suffers from decision fatigue. Making good decisions  is easier when you can make fewer of them.  That's why Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg where the same outfit every day.   To paraphrase Barack Obama you don't want to have to worry about what you are eating or wearing when you have so many other decisions to make.   Smart women can do this, too.

I don't wear the same outfit every day, but to the extent possible, I've tried to automate the things I don't care about, and focus my energy and attention on the things that do.  I want a cleaner house, but I don't actually want to clean it so I read Living a Simple Life and The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and got rid of stuff.   My husband and I live where we can walk downtown so we get our exercise without having to motivate ourselves to get off our couch to do boring mindless laps around a suburban block.   I want to write and be creative, but I realized some months ago most of my creativity was going into cooking and choosing what to wear each day rather than my writing, so I made some adjustments.  When my life seems most off track, I will make a list of my values and priorities, then make a list of how I actually spend my time:  there is nothing like comparing the two to see where an adjustment is needed.

Seeing the results of how you spend your time and the life you live contrasted with the life you actually want for yourself, and the ways you currently spend your time can make achieving your dreams seem impossible.  How did you end up here?  Why should things be any different?  Maybe this is who you really are.  All of these thoughts make the life you want seems so far away.  But the reality is that you can use the fact that life is a series of decisions to your advantage, too:
Terence J. Tollaksen wrote that his purpose became clearer once he began to recognize the “decision trap”: “This trap is an amazingly consistent phenomena whereby ‘big’ decisions turn out to have much less impact on a life as a whole than the myriad of small seemingly insignificant ones.”
You don't get where you want to be by making one big choice.  Life is made up of the smaller choices we make every day.  So don't sweat it if you aren't where you want to be.  Spend some time thinking about where you are, and what you want.  Then start spending time doing what you want, and look for the small decisions that can help you get there.  All these little decisions will make it so when you do have a big decision to make, you'll be ready.  And if you are still overwhelmed, just remember the 85% rule:  You don't have to be 100% certain, or even 100% ready. In fact, you probably never will be;  content yourself with being 85% certain, and when you get to 85% give yourself permission to act.
Cross posted at

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