Every now and then a website title grabs my attention. Not necessarily because of the content – just the title – which I guess is sort of the point! I think long and hard about what to put as the title of each of my blog entries, for I want you to read it! So when I saw a video called “ClutterDiet”, I watched, intrigued. Lorie Marrero is the creator of ClutterDiet.com, and whilst much of the website is geared towards “managing your life”, it struck me deeply when she spoke about “Decision Fatigue”. I have always maintained in talking to people that one of the hardest and most enervating factors of life is the constant need to make decisions. It is simply exhausting. Marrero advocates the use of one-time decisions, especially when it comes to actions you have to repeat on a very regular basis, such as meal decisions. If you make the original decision once, then simply repeat it (as , e.g, with a menu plan), so that you can reduce your need to waste valuable emotional energy on having to make an original decision over and over. She cited President Barack Obama, who, whilst in office, instructed his staff to choose his lunches from a list of foods he liked, rather than keep asking him what he wanted every day. That way, his energy was reserved for international decisions!
I am currently in a season of reflection, which has ensured that I have a lot of thinking time. I have had to make some tough decisions, requiring extensive soul-searching on my part, and it has not been easy. “Time on your hands” does not necessarily mean that the end decision is automatically a brilliant one! It can be draining when you have to process information, some of it substantial, but much of it based on preconceptions and assumptions. The problem I find is that it is almost impossible to be objective when you have Decision Fatigue.
I know that when I have counselled people who are in the very early stages of trauma, it is all too easy for folk to flippantly remark “Oh, they’re in shock”. Shock is a physical reaction to ghastly outside stimuli, where the body cannot immediately process the horror of what might be going on, and so it tries to protect the essentials – and only the essentials – to keep the body alive. So, for example, blood can be re-routed from the extremities in order to make sure the heart can keep pumping, which is why you might feel faint. One of the most important things at this point in trauma is that the brain stops you from making decisions. The body does this automatically. The brain recognises your momentary inability to make any sense of what is going on, so what on earth might you do with a real decision? Best not to make any at all, at least until things settle down a bit. I have seen people in hospital waiting rooms, reeling from horrible news of a loved one, being asked the universal “Would you like a cup of tea?” Someone in shock has no idea whatsoever if they prefer tea or coffee, if they have milk or not, sugar or no sugar – there are simply too many decisions to make. To an outsider, it is a simple question. In the tornado of a mind in shock, it is impossible to tell.
I vividly remember driving in town one day, when my car engine made the most incredible bang, and everything in the car died. I managed to steer safely to the side of the road, and some Good Samaritans made sure I was safe. In the days before mobile phones, I staggered across to a local shop, asked to borrow a phone to contact the AA, who told me they would be with me in 30 minutes. I noticed that I was thirsty, so went into the café next door and ordered a strong sweet black coffee. It was only as I was drinking it that I realised that;
- a) I don’t drink coffee,
- b) I like a lot of milk in hot drinks, and
- c) As a diabetic I never take sugar!
Every “normal” decision had passed me by.
I have made many decisions in my life thus far. Two stand out. The first was my decision, at the age of eight, to become a Follower of Jesus, a Life-long Believer, a Christian. It was, is and always will be the most significant thing I have ever done. Everything revolves around that decision, and I have never regretted it for even a millisecond.
The second decision? To accept the marriage proposal of the man who has now been my husband for nearly 37 years. He, too, is a Follower of Jesus, a Life-long Believer, a Christian. Together we have learned about decision-making in every aspect of our lives. He works in a technical industry where Decision Fatigue is a very real, and often ignored issue. I think we live in a generation which makes a mockery of the word ”multi-tasking”, often reducing it to gender stereotypes, ignoring the reality that many people live under constant stress of having to multi-task for the vast majority of their working lives. They then come home to others who demand even more decisions.
In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus was experiencing extreme stress (excellent short article on this https://www.gotquestions.org/sweat-blood-Jesus.html), yet ultimately, He made the most difficult decision ever; to comply with the will of God the Father to be crucified. He saw you, and He saw me, and he knew what the cost would be like on His body – and He said “Yes”. He knew that we would often reject such a priceless gift, and still He chose “Yes”. He knew that a spiritual battle would ensue that would take an even deeper toll than the one of crucifixion – and still he chose “Yes”.
- Too many decisions to make today? Consider a Clutterdiet of the mind – what can you choose to lay aside?
- Recognize that God is with you in the decisions, and wants you to make wise ones, and wil empower you to do so
- There is a real difference between reflecting on what to do in any situation, and Over-thinking. Over-thinking usually involves going over the same ground repeatedly, and getting nowhere; reflecting means you are attempting to make forward progress.
- Take a deep breath, and make the decisions in small batches where you can. Eventually it will build, until you discover you have made a wise decision that you can stick to.